Students organize to send letters of support to Syrian refugees

Raheem, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan
Raneem, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan, reads a letter from Laila Soudi at Stanford.

In the video, RANEEM, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan, is shown reading aloud a letter of support from a staff member at the School of Medicine. The 18-year-old woman, wearing a black head scarf and plaid dress, pauses at one point, bows her head and wipes away tears.

“She gave me motivation and hope,” Raneem said of the letter writer. “It felt like someone is sharing the same ambitions with me.”

The writer, LAILA SOUDI, is a research assistant in global mental health who is spearheading a campaign to encourage members of the Stanford community to write to Syrian refugees who have fled their country’s violence. She is partnering with CARE International, a humanitarian nonprofit organization, which produced the video and will deliver the letters to refugees living in camps and in urban centers in Jordan.

“These are letters of solidarity and support,” Soudi said. “We have to be careful in not over-promising anything. But our message is that we understand you exist and your voices are silenced, but we are here to support you in any way we can. You are not alone.”

Soudi and a coalition of medical and undergraduate students aim to engage as many people as possible across the Stanford campus in composing letters that will be delivered to the refugees, particularly children and teenagers.

They are organizing a mass letter-writing event April 20 in Room M114 of the medical school’s Alway Building and at The Markaz, a campus resource center for Stanford’s Muslim community. Letter-writers can also send their expressions of support online.

Soudi said the campaign was inspired by her experiences working with refugees in Jordan, where some 2 million Syrians have sought shelter from their country’s devastating civil war in what some have called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades. She said many, like Raneem, are still suffering from the trauma of seeing their family members murdered and their homes destroyed. Her research in the laboratory of VICTOR CARRION, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, focuses on the impact of this trauma on the mental health of children and adolescents.

Read more and see the video on the Medical School website.