Over 20 student clubs on campus are collaborating to collect lightly used toys and blankets for the children affected by the violence in Gaza. The drive is led by the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) and will be collecting from Feb. 9 to Feb. 25.
Clubs involved in the event include the Afghanistan Development Project, Society of Arab Students, Muslim Student Union and Campus Crusade for Christ. The project is already proving to be highly successful.
“Monday was the first day and we got several boxes full,” said Farzad “Kais” Alikozai, a third-year international studies major and officer of UNICEF at UC Irvine.
Donations are being shipped at the end of the month free of charge through the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), an international non-profit organization. PCRF’s primary concern is improving medical care for children and dealing with shipping medical supplies and equipment to the West Bank and Gaza Strip where, according to BBC and United Nations reports, more than 300 children are dead and 1,600 injured.
In light of the devastating violence, UNICEF originally wanted to collect medical supplies and goods. However, prices, shipping and other complications made it a difficult option. Rather than abandon the cause, students moved to collect toys and blankets instead.
“Shipping that stuff halfway around the world costs a lot of money and Gaza is still under blockade, so it’s really difficult to give aid,” Alikozai said. “We were lucky to find one organization that was actually doing a drive.”
According to Sarah Yazouri, a second-year undeclared major who represented the Arab Society for Students, the amount of donations took a back seat to spreading knowledge.
“Whether or not we get a lot of donations, it’s most important to us that we inform people of the devastation in Gaza so that they realize what’s going on in the world and take action,” Yazouri said.
Drives like Toys for Gaza attempt to transcend the donations that they collect, with the goal of both informing the public and providing comfort to the children in Gaza. Organizations like Doctors Without Borders have noted the immense psychological damage that ultimately might be the most damaging factor for surviving children in Gaza.
The drive has been a humanitarian effort and has raised much support despite the controversial politics in Gaza.
“There are people in Crusade that see themselves as ‘pro-Gaza’ or ‘pro-Israel’ but it hasn’t held them back from joining in. We want to be able to get involved, give toys to kids and make connections with other clubs,” said Tim Conie, a third-year biology major and an organizer of the Campus Crusade for Christ’s involvement in the drive.
“The response to this toy and blanket drive has been amazing,” Yazouri said. “Nearly 300 people have joined the Facebook group for it and already donations from clubs and even the public have been coming in.”
Green collection boxes are stationed at seven locations on campus, including the Student Center, Cross-Cultural Center, Pippin and Mesa Commons.