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Benefit event aims to help resettled Syrian refugees in Syracuse

Colin Davy | Staff Photographer

Syracuse community members took to Funk 'n Waffles on Wednesday night for a fundraiser to support Syrian refugees who have resettled in the Syracuse area.

Syracuse locals Susan Coleman and Maureen Jordan each befriended Syrian refugee families living in Syracuse over the summer and said they saw their struggle and wanted to help.

“I see the need. I see the need and now’s the time, post-election, to reach out to our new Americans and help them out,” Jordan said. “It’s not just the money. It’s the awareness that comes with it too. Maybe people will say, ‘Oh, I have an old bed,’ or something like that.”

So on Wednesday night at Funk ‘n Waffles, Coleman and Jordan hosted a fundraiser to support Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the Syracuse area, called Syria’Cuse.

Money from the benefit will go toward helping local refugee resettlement agencies and raising awareness for refugee resettlement in the area, Jordan said. Refugees need help learning English, learning to drive and understanding how to navigate the local area, Coleman added, saying there needs to be funding for refugee resources beyond state aid.

Coleman said she hoped the event would raise $1,000. Ticket sales and a silent auction helped to raise money, along with live entertainment. The silent auction featured various works of art and even gift cards to local restaurants.

All the performers at the event played for free, with the band The Bog Brothers donating all of their proceeds from CD sales to the benefit. One musician, Steve Scuteri, said he was there to support Coleman’s cause and to bring some attention to the need for accepting refugees into the community. Other acts included The Nudes, Composition Be, Buddish and the Mike McKay Band.

Coleman and Jordan were introduced to a Syrian family in the area by Ynesse Abdul-Malak, part-time instructor of sociology at Syracuse University. Abdul-Malak said she wants people to understand that refugees are just like citizens in the United States. They want their children to go to school and be helpful members of U.S. society, she said.

But sometimes, Abdul-Malak said, refugees aren’t treated as well as citizens. The Syrian family Abdul-Malak knows has two daughters who wear hijabs and are stared at when they go out in public, Abdul-Malak said.

“But when you sit down with them, they’re just like any one of us,” she said.

“The fact that they’ve had to leave their country to come here to start a new life is so hard,” Abdul-Malak added. “The language barrier, economically, it’s so hard. So I’m here to help Susan help these refugees, especially the ones who’ve come from Syria.”

A manager at Funk ‘n Waffles offered Coleman the space for the event since she has frequented the establishment, Jordan said. Joelynn Frascatore, an employee at Funk ‘n Waffles, said she’d seen several charity events such as Syria’Cuse done at the venue before.

“I think it’s a great effort by a lot of local musicians that are coming together and doing this for free for a very important cause,” Frascatore said. “I’m really proud to work in a space that’s helping people.”

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