Running for Refugees
I’m pretty proud to say I was a member of Brown University Men’s Varsity Lacrosse team. In the lacrosse world, we made some noise in my senior year: we went undefeated in the Ivy League, beat the U.S. Naval Academy to a home crowd of over 11,000 people and fell in a heartbreaking but valiant overtime loss to a crowd of over 30,000 in the semi-final game of the National Tournament. I was honored to share the field with over 9 All-Americans as well as the Tewaarton Award winner (given to College Lacrosse’s best overall player nation-wide). But despite these accolades and our success on the field, I’m most proud of my team for their actions, conduct and perseverance during a span of 36 rainy hours in November.
Prior to even beginning our whirlwind 2016 season, the Brown men’s lacrosse team partnered with Rumie in a fundraising event for the LearnSyria Campaign.
At the time, Rumie was fundraising to send tablets pre-loaded with free educational content to Syrian refugees at a volunteer run school in Turkey. We pledged to run for 36 hours straight (in shifts of 3 people per hour) all over our campus wearing bright colors to raise money and awareness for LearnSyria. We made a game out of the never ending run – tagging each other after our shifts, relay race style, and generally making a commotion as we ran circles around the main green at all hours of the day. It wasn’t long before students and staff began asking what the heck we were doing, and we were happy to tell them.
Having worked with Rumie the previous summer as an intern, you might think I would have been the most vocal for the LearnSyria campaign during our run. While I certainly tried to be the voice piece for Rumie, I’m seriously proud to say that I was surpassed by a number of my teammates. The guys took on the project with the same vigor that we take on new plays on the lacrosse field. They couldn’t help but smile when they explained how Rumie is able to deliver educational content to a young Syrian refugee on a touchscreen device, bringing him or her not only a massively important education but also a sense of normalcy to a life that has seen too much heartache already.
As University students, we felt incredibly humbled by the stories of these children fighting so hard just to receive an education that we often took for granted.
During the week of the run, our after practice conversations – normally composed of a healthy mix of sports, girls and I guess occasionally academics – suddenly turned towards the crisis in Syria and the people impacted. We wrote handwritten letters to family and friends telling them about LearnSyria and Rumie’s mission. We posted on social media asking for donations and told our professors and friends to come out and support the run. We were proud to say we were doing our part to help, and our enthusiasm was contagious.
“They couldn’t help but smile when they explained how Rumie is able to deliver educational content to a young Syrian refugee on a touchscreen device.”
More impressive than the money we were able to fundraise for Rumie was the passion to help exuded by my teammates and reciprocated by fellow Brunonians. The weather might have been pouring rain and overcast for the duration of the 36 hours, but our spirits never faltered – even during those dreaded 3am graveyard shifts. At one point, a local news crew came out and interviewed a few of us and we got the chance to explain Rumie’s message on TV. But the most emotional episode of our run came near the end of the 36 hours.
Coming out of the rain and into the arch we set up under, a student approached our desk to talk with one of my teammates manning our table. Shortly after we explained what Rumie was doing – that they can deliver an entire curriculum of content on a solar-chargeable device for only $50 – he fiercely thanked my teammate, gripping his hand in a strong handshake and holding it there with a smile on his face. The boy was an international student from Syria and he explained to us how much it meant to him what Rumie was doing. He went on to say that so many people are very quick to donate money, food and supplies to these refugees, and this is good, but what these kids in Syria really are missing in the refugee camps is their shot at an education. He explained that he was very blessed to be able to pursue his education at an institution like Brown, but he felt almost guilty that while he was at Brown, so many of his fellow Syrians were missing out on their prime learning years. Like this young man, my teammates and I all believe that an education is the most powerful tool to transform society.
The situation in Syria will not be resolved quickly, but rather it will be inherited by the next generation. At Rumie, we’re making sure they have the tools and the education required to rebuild their country. With the LearnCloud powering the Rumie tablets, the playing field is made a little bit more level for these kids.
Written By: Todd Stewart
2015 intern at Rumie