In response to two recent disasters that struck the Maghreb region of North Africa last week — a 6.8-magnitude earthquake in Morocco and floods in Libya — students organized a two week long fundraising campaign.
The South Asian, Southwest Asian, North African Initiative, or SSWANA, the Middle Eastern, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian coalition, or MEMSSA, ASUC committee office and the African Maghreb Student Union, or AMSU, organized the fundraiser event to support both countries’ victims.
According to President and Founder of AMSU, Yasmine Tani, the linked Venmo account garnered $1,500 within the first three days of tabling on Sproul Plaza and promotions on social media. The funds are to be split equally between both counties to direct victims of the disasters — using connections made through the External Affairs Vice President’s office and Maghreb students.
“It was incredibly confronting to have earthquakes happen in Morocco and then within literally a few days have floods and big storms happen in Libya,” Tani said. “We definitely knew that we wanted to host a fundraiser, especially alongside other organizations, because we knew that a lot of the students were relying on us to determine where they should be sending their money, or different ways that they could help, because we are the club that directly represents Morocco and Libya.”
Shaadi Ahmadzadeh, Student Advocacy and Organizing Director for MEMSSA, who helped construct the fundraisers’ website and table on Sproul, said they also promoted verified GoFundMe campaigns to go directly to families. This was keeping with the effort’s “hyper-local” aspect to make a larger impact, as opposed to working with larger organizations such as the Red Cross, Ahmadzadeh added.
Ahmadzadeh said focusing on local efforts also helps aid disperse faster and avoid overhead cost and transportation fees. Financial aid goes a long way, as the American dollar conversion is significant in both countries, Ahmadzadeh noted.
“It’s very important to be connected to what’s going on outside of our very niche bubble in Berkeley,” Ahmadzadeh said. “Berkeley is, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small place, and a lot of us are immigrants or first generation or second generation, so it’s very important to be connected to where we came from, and to have a global perspective … it just brings out the best in people — just banding together as strangers, just doing something for the common good.”
UC Berkeley student Rania Bouiri, whose family is from Casablanca, Morocco, immediately started planning with her family for ways to send supplies, forming an effort to send an air cargo to Morocco. She received over 40 bags of supplies to send full of clothes, shoes, tents, first-aid kits, flashlights, diapers, toiletries such as feminine hygiene items and blankets from the campus community. In addition, Bouiri received $500 in donations to buy other needed supplies and was able to send most supplies in the cargo to Morocco on Saturday night. She plans to send the remaining supplies to Libya.
“Despite my family not being directly impacted (as they are in Casablanca), in a way I felt like my family was because the people in Morocco are my people as well,” Bouiri said. “It felt like one family and everyone was supporting one another. I felt the support through the entire Berkeley community, which I really admired and appreciated what they were willing to give.”
General member of MEMSSA Liam Johnson helped table for the fundraiser and said anyone should offer support with or without donating, such as by raising awareness through social media or conversation with friends because the devastation of the events means “any effort helps.”
According to Ahmadzadeh, seeing the success of the fundraiser and interest to help in the community has been impactful to displaced families.
“I know there’s tons of disasters going on right now and it’s just been for a lot of our community members, it is a grief and struggle, but just seeing the overwhelming outpouring of support from our community — the MEMSSA community and beyond — it’s just fantastic and it’s very heartwarming,” Ahmadzadeh said.