School's Charity Drive Redirects Donations After Halt to Syrian Resettlement

Students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington gathered more than 2,000 individual donations

A student-run charity effort at a Vermont Catholic school wrapped up Friday, but not without last-minute changes forced by presidential policies.

Students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington gathered more than 2,000 individual donations, such as shampoo, lotion, toothbrushes, warm hats, gloves, and more.

“As a Christian community, as a Catholic community, that is a core value—that we help people who are in need,” said Rice senior Maura Thompson.

The donations were meant for 100 refugees, mostly from Syria, with some from Iraq, who had been scheduled to move into Rutland this year after they were approved by government officials to find new, safer lives in the United States. 

However, only two Syrian families arrived before resettlement froze. 

President Donald Trump said tougher vetting for asylum-seekers is a must, to protect our nation’s security from what Trump warned could be dangerous people who may attempt to sneak into the U.S. among refugees. 

“They've been vetted many times,” Rice senior Jack Lyons said of Syrian refugees waiting to enter the United States. “There's nothing different between us and them—just an ocean.” 

Lyons and other students leading the project said some of their donations will still go to the two Rutland families. The rest, instead of to more Syrians in Rutland, will go to refugees in the Burlington area from other lands also torn apart by fighting or persecution. 

To be fair, many Americans across the country have said over the past week that they agree with President Trump’s recent executive orders.

On the issue of indefinitely suspending the Syrian refugee resettlement program, a recent Gallup poll found 36 percent approval among 1,018 Americans polled.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents to Gallup disapproved of the policy, in the poll conducted over the last two days of January. Six percent had no opinion, according to Gallup.

On the issue of halting the arrival of Syrian refugees, 71 percent of Republicans said they approved of the measure, but only 10 percent of Democrats did, Gallup reported.

Back at Rice, Sister Laura Della Santa, the school’s principal, said she hopes the charity project collecting donations for refugees reminds her students that kindness, as an ideal, knows no boundaries.

“We're all God’s people,” Della Santa said. “We're all empowered to be respectful of one another, respectful of the earth—and be welcoming.” 

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