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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Organization spearheads drive to help war refugees

Working to create a place for international refugees in Houston, MSC FLI’s annual drive only collected bicycles in the past, but this year, the freshman leadership organization is encouraging students and faculty to donate anything from old furniture to old shoes, along with bicycles, to the Houston-based nonprofit Life Cycles.
Life Cycles Global helps refugees from war-torn countries assimilate into American society. Bryan Walker, MSC FLI assistant director and sophomore business major, said Life Cycles helps refugees from Burma, Africa, Nepal and the Middle East.
“One of their biggest focal points is providing them means of transportation – bicycles, specifically, since they’re moveable, they’re easy to maintain,” Walker said. “That’s kind of their biggest point is getting them bicycles as a means of transportation.”
Alex Heinze, MSC FLI assistant director and sophomore business administration major, has helped lead the committee facilitating the drive. Heinze said FLI has a box in the Student Programs Office on the second floor of the MSC where donations are welcome at any time.
“We’ve picked up a couple couches, just different things – bigger items from people that are not able to bring them to school, if it’s faculty or students,” Heinze said. “We can make arrangements to get that picked up. We actually have an event on Facebook right now. We have information as far as who you can contact if you have something you may want to donate.”
The refugees often come from refugee camps without work or education available, which Heinze said gives the refugees a sense of appreciation for what is offered to them upon arrival.
“They haven’t been able to get real jobs unless they leave the refugee camps, and so it’s not just people we’re giving things to, it’s people we know are going to return the favor and are going to make the most of it and go get jobs and provide for themselves and provide for their families,” Heinze said. “They’re really passionate about getting in and working into society once they get here.”
Life Cycles helps educate the refugees about the daily American experience, Heinze said, like how to interpret the bus system or utilize health care services.
After working with Life Cycles for two years, Heinze said she communicated often with Laurie and Jeremy Howell, the founders of Life Cycles. Laurie started the organization after working with Burmese refugees as an ESL teacher, Heinze said.
Heinze said the Howells are invested in A&M and are passionate about their organization.
“She has left teaching and doing ESL to do this full time so I feel like she’s the main drive behind it,” Heinze said. “Everything she does is for Life Cycles.”
The Howells decided to accept clothing and household items after the number of bikes exceeded the number of families arriving.
“If we can just provide the bare necessities for them to start their lives, it makes their transition a lot easier,” Heinze said. “It makes life a lot easier for them and their families.”
Heinze said students can donate clothes they’ve outgrown, sheets that no longer fit their bed size and any other linens or towels.
“Anything that you can think of as far as going into a house so kitchen utensils – plates, cups, pots and pans,” Heinze said. “On-campus people – if they have a lamp that they’re not using, a chair that they’re not using. Anything, really, that goes into making a house.”
Taylor Beach, executive director of MSC FLI’s international service and outreach and sophomore university studies major, said Life Cycles is a good way to localize an international issue.
“We’ve been through a lot in our lives, but it’s put into perspective that there are people struggling more than us and that everything we can do for them – they’re going to be so appreciative,” Heinze said.
FLI will accept donations until April 25.

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