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‘Incredible’:
Teens Raise Thousands for CNEWA’s Work with
Syrian Refugees Posted: May 1 2017 2:52PM

In the video above, you can learn more about the remarkable fundraiser arranged by students in Westchester, New York last weekend — a benefit concert which netted more than $15,000, with all proceeds going to support CNEWA’s work among the people of Syria. (video: CNEWA)

It sounded like a nice idea that might raise a little money and get some attention.

It got a lot more than that.

Last Friday, a remarkable fundraiser by a group of New York teenagers known as Relief United drew a crowd of some 300 people to a park in Westchester, New York — and, at last count, raised more than $15,000 to support CNEWA’s work with the people of Syria.

This was beyond anything we expected. As I told someone Friday night: “This is incredible.” You can see a video report of the event above.

Local media turned out to cover the concert and talk with the kids behind it.

From WABC-TV:

Really making a difference in the world is an ambitious idea seven teens from Westchester are truly committed to.

“Even the smallest person can make a change,” a teen said.

Motivated by the disturbing images and headlines coming from Syria, the longtime friends organized a picnic and benefit concert at Kingsland Point Park Friday to raise money for Syrian refugee families, hospitals, and schools.

“We look at it on TV and we talk about it, but what are we doing?” said Michal Kozlowski, a student. “So I got together with a bunch of my friends and this started with a little dance in a little church and it’s just expanded.”

“I don’t like to think of it as us helping Syrians, because that makes them seem so distant and far away from us,” said Gibran Mourani, a student. “I like to think of it as teenagers helping teenagers, families helping families.”

Some of the teenagers who supported the event pose for a snapshot with CNEWA development associate Phillip Eubanks and multimedia editor Greg Kandra, who are kneeling in the front.
(photo: Chris Kennedy)


As we first reported last month, the benefit began a long way from Westchester:

“It started at World Youth Day in Krakow,” says Michal Kozlowski, a junior at Regis High School in New York City. “One of my friends I met there is from Syria and he started telling me about his brother, who lives under ISIS. He was speaking from the heart about what he had to do just to survive. Then Pope Francis spoke to us and said, ‘The leaders of today dream in their comfy couches but they don’t get out of that couch and make that dream a reality.’ The crowd roared and I thought: ‘I’ve got to do something.”

That planted the seed, which eventually grew into Friday’s event:

“Hopefully,” Michal says, “this can have an impact similar to what I had at World Youth Day. We want to organize energetic youth under a common, good goal to do something good.”

“This is something we feel passionate about,” adds Nick Sinopoli, another junior from Regis working with Michal on the project. “It’s something we can do to make a real difference in the world.”

In addition to music and food, the fundraiser offered opportunities to write notes to Syrian refugees, provided information about CNEWA and our work in the region, and even gave kids a chance to have their names tattooed on their arms (with a Sharpie) in Arabic.

Teenagers who attended had a chance to have their names written on their arm in Arabic.
(photo: Chris Kennedy)


It was something all of us who were there will remember for a long time. And we remain both humbled and grateful to the hardworking kids (and their parents and teachers!) who made this event possible — and all those who took part, who will be making such a difference in the lives of so many in Syria.

Our thanks go out to Michal Kozlowski, Lilly McHale, Nick Sinopoli, Michael Gauguin, Gibran Mourani, Jane Singman and Joe Gullotta, and to their supportive parents.

Michal Kozlowski, joined by some of the teenagers who helped organize the Relief United benefit concert, speaks to the hundreds of friends and supporters who attended the event in Westchester on 29 April. (photo: Greg Kandra)