Wilson Student Gena Basha Starts Non-Profit to Benefit Syrian Refugees



The civil war in Syria is featured prominently in the news. But for Wilson senior Gena Basha, it’s a personal problem. Basha’s father is from Syria, and many of her relatives have deeply personal connections to the country. Her great aunt was forced to flee Syria after violence erupted there, and adjusting to life in the United States has been difficult, not least because of the friends and neighbors she had to leave behind.

When she learned about how the war had affected her family members, Basha knew it wasn’t enough to read newspaper articles about it. This summer, she took the next step: raising over $3,000 for an organization called Save the Children that provides support for children in disaster-stricken areas like Syria.

For Basha, the first obstacle was selecting the organization for her donations. She learned that in many charities a large percentage of donations don’t go towards the cause– instead, they’re set aside for things like publicity and managing the organization. She decided on Save the Children because 90% of donations go directly to supplies and assistance for children in need.

Basha knew that the crisis in Syria was so wide-reaching that there was no way she would be able to help every single problem. Save the Children gave her a way to focus her efforts. She says that her goal became to improve “the status of victimized children in Syria as well as child refugees who have fled across the border to escape the devastation.”

Achieving such a large goal in just a few months is no easy feat. So Basha thought big. On July 30, she organized a cocktail party fundraiser at the Lebanese Taverna. Besides being encouraged to donate to the cause, guests were treated to a short film about the conflict in Syria, a trivia game, and a jewelry raffle. Twenty percent of the restaurant’s food and drink profits were also donated to Save the Children. The event raised a grand total of $996– not bad for a 16-year-old!

To raise additional money, Basha turned to a less extravagant source: the internet. Using a website called FirstGiving, she created a fundraising page to allow others to contribute to her cause. Through credit card donations, she raised an additional $2,790 from friends, family, and donors who weren’t able to make it to the D.C. fundraiser.

For Basha, her work over the summer isn’t just about the money. It’s something bigger: the idea that even as a high school senior in a country hundreds of miles away from Syria, she has the power to make a difference. She says such a mix of independence and influence is a rewarding feeling, and one that not everyone gets the opportunity to experience. “It felt really good to know that I was my own leader,” Basha says, “and that I had created something out of nothing in just a matter of months.”

Basha’s work isn’t over. So far she has raised $3,786, making her less than $2,000 shy of her $5,000 goal. Interested in donating? Go to http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/dc4syria.

As appeared in the August 30th issue of The Beacon