BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. -- Amber Lewis has never been to Syria or had any prior personal connections to its people but, as a humanitarian -- and a mom -- she felt she could no longer sit idly by.
And so, in late December 2016, the Yonkers, N.Y. resident made a post in a Facebook Mom's group proposing small but positive actions to combat the horrific images coming out of this Middle Eastern country.
In 48 hours, she went from zero to 500 members, many of them in Bergen County. And, at her first meeting in January, she had formed an army of 1,000 people acting under the name Greater NYC Families for Syria (GNYC4Syria).
The non-partisan volunteer group now has over 1,700 members from the tristate area with the mission of supporting Syrians locally and internationally.
The goal: To provide a shared space for ordinary citizens, non-profits and non-governmental organizations to connect in the common aim of assisting Syrians affected by the current conflict, whether in the U.S. or abroad.
So far, they've helped the community with job search assistance, supporting resettlement agencies and other "good neighborly" acts. In Connecticut, they are throwing a baby shower for one Syrian woman and bringing a cornucopia of yarn to another, so she can start her own business selling crocheted dresses.
"We visit families and ask what they need. We try our best to help in any way we can," said Lewis, a lawyer by training with a background in international criminal law and humanitarian affairs.
"Our initiatives are practically focused: from providing direct, immediate assistance for basic material needs, to organizing local playdates for Syrian refugees and language buddy programs," she added.
The group held its first donation drive in Eastchester, N.Y. last week, coordinated with volunteers from Hearts and Homes for Refugees and the Westchester Refugee Task Force to offer clothing, diapers, toiletries, bedding and toys to be sent to Syria through its non-profit partner NuDay Syria. Items will also be distributed locally to those in need.
For those interested in getting involved, there are daily calls to action on the Facebook page. The group will also hold its second in-person meeting on Saturday, May 6 in Manhattan and any and all are welcome to join.
Lewis said she wakes up every morning stunned and thankful for the support of people she has come to know, many simply virtually.
"There is a tremendous will to do good and to counteract the negativity towards refugees, particularly Syrians, in a practical way. GNYC4Syria serves as a lightning rod, attracting talent and inspiring action.
"We grow by nearly a hundred members a week. It's astonishing! "
Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/groups/GNYC4Syria/.
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