Talk by leader of Syrian refugee group set for Sunday in Northampton

  • Nadia Alawa, founder and CEO of NuDay Syria, will speak at a local interfaith group event at Edwards Church on Sunday. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Thursday, April 19, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — A local interfaith group will host a talk by Nadia Alawa, founder of NuDay Syria, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping displaced Syrian citizens, at the Edwards Church Sunday.

Coordinated by the Pioneer Valley Interfaith Refugee Action Group, the two-hour program will begin at 2 p.m. with a welcome by the Rev. Michael McSherry of Edwards Church and a poem reading by a local poet. Mohammad Bajawa of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts will introduce Alawa.

The event is free and open to the public.

“I think it’s so important for people to learn about what’s going on in Syria and to be able to connect with ways that people can support Nadia’s organization,” said Ellen Koteen, a member of the refugee action group. “It’s an opportunity to learn and to participate if one wants to in the relief efforts.”

NuDay Syria was founded in 2011 by Alawa and consists of volunteers. The organization donates medical equipment, clothes, food and school supplies in 40-foot shipping containers that arrive within six to eight weeks to displaced Syrians, according to Koteen.

Alawa will talk about the organization that she leads using video and photos of the work her nonprofit has done in the past few years.

The unrest in Syria stems from the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, and since then has transformed into an ongoing civil war between Syrian rebels and the Syrian government. According to the CIA, as of December 2017 approximately 6.3 million citizens are displaced internally while around 5.4 million are registered refugees.

The interfaith action group started 2½ years ago and includes 20 different faiths connecting thousands of members, Koteen said.

“We work with local mosques in Hadley and in Springfield, going to events and opening up a dialogue between faiths,” Koteen said.

After the talk, a reception will be held and refreshments donated by Amanouz Café in Northampton will be served.

“We’re not immune in this region to anti-Muslim sentiments,” Koteen said. “So it’s important for people to come and listen and hear how they can become involved. NuDay Syria is a bridge between families here and Syrian families who need help.”