To be honest, when I first decided to start a Students Organize for Syria (SOS) chapter at my school I was scared that I wouldn’t get the support I needed from peers to get the chapter up and running. This is a fear that I’ve sensed in many of the college students I’ve talked to about starting a chapter and I understand where it’s coming from. It’s no secret that the world is constantly trying to shy away from conversations about Syria out of fear of “getting political” and this notion is especially prevalent in the United States. We all feel like the world has turned a blind eye to anything Syria, except humanitarian efforts…sometimes. However, I have come to find that a lot of people actually do want to talk about Syria, we just haven’t given them the means to do so, and that’s where SOS comes in.

University campuses are the hub of knowledge, new ideas, and challenging the status quo which makes SOS one of the most important projects we should be working on to facilitate raising awareness. In the near future Insha’Allah, once the regime falls, SOS will also be a means for rebuilding Syria.

I attend the second largest university in the nation, the University of Central Florida, with over sixty thousand students, yet I only know three other Syrians on campus, so I didn’t know who would be interested in running this club with me. All I knew was that I was passionate about the idea of having a voice for the Syrian people on campuses across the United States. And with that goal in mind, alongside my trust in God that He would open doors for me once I got this project started, I set out to find my board members and Academic advisor.

I asked two of my close friends to be my secretary and vice president, and I asked Students for Justice in Palestine to share their academic advisor with us, which they happily did, and I was all set to send in the paperwork and get SOS at UCF registered. My friends were not Syrian, nor were they that knowledgeable about Syria but they didn’t have to be, you just need people that want to help and the knowledge will come. Our academic advisor turned out to be the most kind-hearted man who really cared about Syria and had already wanted to see something like our club on campus. It worked out perfectly.

After we registered SOS at UCF I dedicated the semester to getting the word about our organization out there by networking with SJP, MSA, and other clubs on campus. I won’t deny that it is hard work getting a club up on its feet, but it’s definitely worth the effort. With the help of SOS national, we held Syria Solidarity Week events, participated in the planet Syria national campaign, and witnessed the support of all kinds of people for our cause. The SOS national board was a huge resource and always there to help. I couldn’t have done it without them.

At the end of the semester, as the club’s elections grew closer and I grew more anxious about the future of the club I worked so hard to start, I received emails in the span of a week from six people that were interested in taking over SOS next year. The transition was unbelievably easy and the whole process was proof to me that people want to find a way to help, and this may be exactly what they need. If you’re thinking of starting a chapter at your school take the first step and insha’Allah He will open doors for you as He did for me.

Hiba Shaban is a recent graduate from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and a minor in computer science. She is the founder and former president of Students Organize for Syria at UCF which was established during the spring semester of 2015. She is currently the vice president of SOS at USF.