Students around the country are getting involved in something global and something powerful. With a click of a mouse and a bit of green paint, teenagers across the United States are reaching out, pledging their support and making a difference. Students around the country are becoming ... Syria.
"I Am Syria is a campaign for the Syrian people, and its purpose is to let them know that we support them and that they are not alone," said Abby Cordaro, a sophomore at Immaculata Academy. "Its main goal is to spread awareness about the conflict in Syria."
The campaign, which was started in Buffalo, uses social media websites, primarily Facebook and Twitter, to build support of the people who are struggling in Syria.
The Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies has gotten many teens in the area aware of the campaign. Already, the Facebook page has more than 800 likes. Supporters have posted pictures from all over the world, videos have been posted in many languages and the movement continues to grow.
Calvin Gath, a sophomore at Springville Griffith Institute, describes the situation in Syria: "President Bashar al-Assad has been ruling the country with an iron fist. There have been numerous human rights violations by the Assad regime, and the Syrian people are still suffering. I Am Syria supports an end to the Syrian conflict and looks to demonstrate to the Syrian people that the world cares for them."
"I really believe that teens want to make a difference in some way," said Eliza Lefebvre, a junior at Sweet Home High School.
Teens often get lost in the bigger, political battles of the conflict. I Am Syria gives teens an easy and effective way to get involved.
"It means a great deal to me to be involved in such a campaign on a personal level," said Hala El Solh, a freshman at Orchard Park High School. "My grandmother has Syrian roots. I heard a lot of stories about the human rights abuse that have been going on for 40 years in Syria and how it has affected her extended family."
"It's also important for us to realize that not only are we an interconnected planet, but also an interdependent one," Eliza said. "Knowing this, I believe what happens on the other side of the world can happen anywhere."
I Am Syria gives outsiders a direct way to show solidarity for Syria. On www.iamsyria.org, there are pictures and information about the human rights violations happening in Syria, as well as tools for educators to show students. On Facebook, the campaign encourages videos from individuals and groups saying "I am Syria!" or pictures with people holding the iconic sign with the green handprint, a Syrian symbol for resistance.
"It is especially important to the Syrian people," Abby says, "because in times like these, it is easy for them to think that the global community does not care about their struggles, but that is not the case. With this campaign, the Syrians can be constantly reminded that they are not alone and that people do care."
"It is an important reminder to the Syrian people that there is a mass number of individuals who support them," Calvin says.
I Am Syria began here in Western New York and now is stretching across the world in an effort to make a difference, one photo or video at a time. For more information, visit www.iamsyria.org.
Rainah Umlauf is a senior at Springville Griffith Institute.