TOWAMENCIN — The number of Syrians who have fled the violence in their country has surpassed two million, creating a humanitarian crisis in the countries that have set up refugee camps.
Christopher Dock Mennonite High School and the Mennonite Central Committee’s Material Resource Center in Harleysville launched a short-term, intensive clothing drive last month to help the refugees, with assistance from the local community.
About a dozen bags of clothing had already been donated over the weekend before assistant principal Martin Wiens and senior Johnathan Capps announced the effort during the school’s chapel hour on September 16.
“It’s become so politicized, but people want to know, ‘What can I do to help?’ ‘What’s something tangible we can do?’” Wiens said. The students collected blankets, coats, sweaters, long pants, ankle-length skirts, long-sleeved shirts, shoes, backpacks, and toys.
This is part of a larger effort — the clothing drive was coordinated by the Material Resource Center’s headquarters in Ephrata, Pa., and other church communities across the country are also holding drives.
Dock’s involvement seemed fitting because juniors and seniors are learning about the refugee crisis in Bible class and social studies class, Wiens said, and school leadership thought it was important to get students invested in the movement to help.
“They seem pretty interested,” Capps said, adding that he heard from some classmates over the weekend who wanted to know more about the clothing drive and how they could help.
In total, the drive collected nearly 50 cubic feet of donations, which were then sent to Ephrata and processed, then sent to Lebanon, said Sharon Swartzentruber, director of the Material Resource Center in Harleysville.
“We’re trying to get everything to Lebanon before the weather turns too cold, and it takes a long time for shipments to arrive — five or six weeks,” she said.
Although the clothing drive has ended, the Material Resource Center is still collecting hygiene kits and relief kits, which are distributed in areas of crisis around the world, including the Middle East. For more information, please call the MRC at (267) 203-8074.