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Extending An Artistic Olive Branch to Syria

LearnServe alum partners with teen leader to extend hugs, hearts, shoes and art supplies to young Syrians

According to the United Nations 80,000 people have been killed in Syria’s Civil War to date. More than 1.5 Million Syrian Refugees have fled the country’s turmoil. Over 5 million people are in need of humanitarian support. Every day 125 children are born as refugees.

Instead of feeling helpless, two young leaders have put together a large contribution for the children of Syria. Both Nick and Yoni, 2012 Huggable Heroes Awardees, have collaborated in collecting more than 200 pairs of shoes and more than 10,000 crayons, which will be distributed in person, to children in the Atmeh refugee camp, located on the border between Syria and Turkey.

About the youth leadersYoni Kalin founded Color My World in 2010, during his year as a LearnServe Fellow. The project collects crayons from family-style restaurants and donates them to centers working with disadvantaged kids. Yoni uses this venture to also raise awareness of recycling, to advocate for environmental responsibility and challenge our society’s culture of waste and to motivate teenagers to use their creativity to make a lasting change in their communities. CMW is partnered with 97 restaurants in 17 states and has donated more than 130,000 crayons to more than 5,000 kids both nationally and internationally.

15-year old, Nicholas Lowinger is making a personal donation of 270 pairs of new footwear to the child refugees at the Atmeh refugee camp in Syria.  Nicholas launched the Gotta Have Sole Foundation in 2010 to provide children living in homeless shelters throughout the US with new footwear to call their own, as well as to advocate for their equality.  To date through his charity Nicholas has donated new footwear to over 9000 children throughout the US, including over 650 children in Oklahoma who were displaced recently as the result of a devastating tornado.  He has engaged and mentored over 1000 volunteers, nationwide who have joined his cause and have developed their own initiatives.

About the Atmeh Refugee Camp: The Atmeh refugee camp has no UN relief convoys, no running water, no electricity, no heat, no sewage systems, and only one medical tent. The Atmeh camp is home to around 13,000 men, women and children who fled their homes to escape the violence.

About Huggable Heroes: Huggable Heroes is a program founded in 2004 to honor and reward young people for giving back to their communities, their schools and our world. It was inspired by Nikki Giampolo, a Build-A-Bear Workshop Guest, who loved life, children and teddy bears. She shared that love by giving teddy bears and their hugs to all those around her. In 2002, at the age of 15, Nikki lost her life to cancer. Her family and friends shared Nikki’s story of courage and her hopes of helping children with Build-A-Bear Workshop and that is how Huggable Heroes was born. Huggable Heroes candidates, ages eight-18, can be nominated by family, friends or anyone who knows of a young person’s good deeds. Over the years, Huggable Heroes have been honored for a variety of worthy causes ranging from sheltering the homeless to protecting the environment, providing books for schools, supplies for the military, and more.

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