Shepard Residential College drive collects blankets and coats for Ukrainian and Afghan refugees


Illustration by Nicole Tan

The drive, which began Jan. 24 and concluded last weekend, collected coats and blankets for Ukrainian and Afghan refugees in the Chicago area.

Pavan Acharya, Campus Editor

Some refugees in the Chicago area may be a bit warmer this season following a winter coat drive spearheaded by a collaboration between Shepard Residential College and the Chicago-based Muslim Women Resource Center.

The drive, which ran from Jan. 24 through last weekend, collected items for Ukrainian and Afghan refugees. According to Arabic instruction Prof. and Shepard Residential College faculty chair Fatima Khan, the drive raised more than $1,600 and collected more than 30 news coats. The team also bought 35 queen-sized blankets to donate. 

Khan coordinated the drive with other residential colleges, the Muslim-cultural Students Association and MWRC Board of Trustees co-Chair Elizabeth Al-Dajani.  

She brought all the donated materials to the MWRC on Tuesday.

“When you leave or flee, you just leave with the things that you have on your back,” Khan said of the refugees. “You’re not fully packed with your winter gear or things like that.”

Thousands of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees fled to the Chicago area following the collapse of the Afghanistan government in August 2021 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Khan said the recent events led to a greater need for refugee support and involvement from NU students, including Shepard Residential College leadership. She said Weinberg sophomore Roy Zhu, Shepard Residential College co-Social Chair, spread the word about the drive on campus using Instagram and flyers.  

Zhu said some of the money donated came from fees for the residential collegewide game of “Assassins,” a roleplaying game in which people attempt to “kill” one another by tapping one another with items like spoons. 

“This drive has helped me realize how we can work together and how we can leverage our personal connections through our dorm,” they said.

But, Zhu said the drive was only possible because of Khan’s preexisting connections with MWRC.

According to Al-Dajani, drives like this are critical for families arriving at the MWRC when it is below zero degrees Fahrenheit outside. 

“I think there’s a special connection when you can help build a bridge to people who are in need by bringing items that will help them thrive and survive,” Al-Dajani said.

The MWRC helped more than 900 people last month — including 500 Ukrainian refugees — she said. 

The MWRC has supported about 4,000 people in the past year, including roughly 1,700 Afghan refugees and 600 refugees from former Soviet countries like Ukraine, according to Executive Director Sima Quraishi.

While there aren’t any plans for another drive yet, Khan said the recent effort’s success made her more optimistic.

“You don’t really know at the end if you have something substantial,” she said. “But, what you saw is that in a small amount of time you can make a really big dent.”

Zoey Soh contributed reporting.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @PavanAcharya02

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