14 June 2016
Guests listen to a presentation about Middle East Christians during the reception organized by 17-year-old Christopher O’Hara at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City. (photo: CNEWA)
Editors note: Earlier this month, CNEWA hosted a special fundraising reception at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City, to raise awareness about CNEWA’s work in the Middle East. What may be most surprising, though, is that this event was the brainchild of a 17-year-old young man from Long Island, Christopher O’Hara. Here, he shares his story.
I am a junior in high school, and I came to be involved in CNEWA in a rather unusual way. I spent a month last summer in rural Tibet studying Chinese and living with a local family. When I returned home, I was looking forward to spending the rest of my summer reading at the beach. But on one of those first quiet days, I ended up having a long and detailed conversation with a good friend of my parents, who wanted to tell me about an incredible organization she had been involved with, CNEWA. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The more I listened, the more I thought this was something I needed to look into. I did some research on CNEWA, and I could not have been more impressed. My parents’ friend put me in contact with Lauren Lozano, a development associate at CNEWA.
In my conversations with Lauren and her colleagues Norma Intriago and Philip Eubanks, we discussed how someone in my position could raise awareness and funds for CNEWA. At the same time we were having these conversations, the refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq was exploding, and I thought the subsequent lack of international response was appalling. The professionals at CNEWA informed me of the real threat facing Christians in the Middle East, and I decided that my focus would be on their charitable operations in that region. I reached out to faculty and administration at my school, Chaminade High School, but I wanted to do more. It became clear that I should organize — with the help of my family and friends — a fundraising event. I told the people at CNEWA my idea, and we were off and running.
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon, Chris O’Hara (Christopher’s father), Christopher O’Hara and Norma Intriago meet during the reception. (photo: CNEWA)
The staff at CNEWA is exceptional. They spent hours and hours helping me plan and organize a reception for roughly 100 people in New York City. I was astounded by the level of effort and detail required to pull off an event like this. Thankfully, Norma and Philip were there for me every step of the way, and the event was a tremendous success.
Looking back at that night, I realize how truly blessed I am. The night opened on a high note when the owner of our venue, Dean Poll, came over to tell me he was so impressed with what he had learned about CNEWA that he decided to donate the room, the food and the refreshments. It was an unimaginably generous act, and set a great tone for the evening. The steady stream of family, friends, and supporters of CNEWA that followed made an already great night even better.
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon explains the severity of the crisis in the Middle East. (photo: CNEWA)
The Rev. Elias D. Mallon had the full attention of those gathered as he explained the magnitude and severity of the crisis and the importance of maintaining a Christian presence in the Middle East. I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce Father Elias and to address the audience after his remarks.
Christopher O’Hara speaks at the conclusion of the fundraiser. (photo: CNEWA)
It is an experience that I will never forget, but I hope that it is just the beginning a long and lasting relationship with the work of CNEWA.
The event at Gallagher’s was just the beginning. We’ve established a CrowdRise page to help Christopher O’Hara continue raising funds for CNEWA. Visit this link to contribute.
If you would like CNEWA to visit your parish or organize a presentation about our work, please contact our development director Norma Intriago at email@example.com.