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War Survivors Institute clothing drive a success

Elsa Anderson, Staff Reporter

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War Survivors Institute members pose in front of donated clothing. (Photo courtesy of Cameron Clonch)

Last month, War Survivors Institute (WSI) members hosted a clothing drive at the school and several local businesses with the goal of being able to ship clothes to Iraq.

With unrest in the Middle East, many people have been forced to flee their home countries. Members of the WSI club have been doing their best to help refugees in the Seattle area and abroad.

Junior Cameron Clonch’s uncle, Dr. Michael Hollifield, worked with refugees suffering from PTSD, which inspired him to start a non-profit to help refugees. “[In California] I think [the non-profit] is more about the mental health of refugees, but up here, we’re just doing whatever we can to help refugees in Seattle and abroad,” Junior Jenny Mastrobatista said.

“WSI as a whole, not the student part, is about mental health,” Clonch said.

“Honestly, we never expected to get that much stuff. We were really just trying to figure out how to ship it all,” junior Chloe Marzio said. “We got the most donations, I think, from Grumpy D’s and Sip and Ship, but Holy Grounds still helped a lot. We’d have to collect it every couple days because the boxes kept filling up.”

They are currently facing a dilemma of how to get all of the donated clothing to Iraq. “We’re trying to find some way to raise money so we can send everything, because that’s expensive. I think we’re toying with the idea of a yard sale or a bake sale or something like that, but we’re still in the process of deciding,” Marzio said.

“We knew a lot of people [would want to donate] because Seattle is such a liberal bubble, but given everything that’s been going on, people were really eager to help out and we were really moved by that,” Mastrobatista said.

“My basement is very full [of clothes] right now,” Clonch said.

Club members have spent the past couple of weekends sorting through the clothing to make it easier for recipients to find what they need. “There are people who donated nice suits and jackets and stuff, which is really nice, and we’re trying to pull that out so if people are trying to look for work or something, it will be easier for them to find nice clothes,” Marzio said.

Members meet on Thursday mornings at 8 a.m. in Mr. Thompson’s room.

“[At the meetings] we usually just talk about whatever project we have going on. Right now it’s sort of the clothing drive and we’re making thank you notes to all the businesses in Ballard who agreed to have a box for our clothing drive,” Mastrobatista said.

Dr. Hollifield is planning to go to Iraq in late May, when he will distribute the collected clothing. “We’re going to ship [the clothing] to sort of an office there and once he arrives in Iraq he will take it from there to the refugee camp and he will personally distribute the clothes to refugees,” Mastrobatista said.

Due to recent politics, though, his trip may be postponed. “[My uncle] might not be able to go because he might now need government permission because of Trump,” Clonch said.  With President Trump’s recent executive orders banning people from traveling to the United States from Iraq, Dr. Hollifield may not be able to travel back from Iraq.

Though focused on fundraising now, club members have hopes of getting more involved in the lives of refugees living in Seattle.  “There’s different partners that my uncle has set up and one of them is in Seattle,” Clonch said. “They’re going to try to set up storytelling groups, so we could go and participate in the storytelling groups and maybe record some stories and publish them on a blog or something.”

“We’re just in it to help refugees,” Clonch said. “There’s a lot to be done.”

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War Survivors Institute clothing drive a success