Liza Koshy is here to help.
The 26 year old Social Media Personality and coming star from Transformers: Rise of the Beasts recently traveled to Jordan UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to support Syrian refugees – a mission she inherited from her older sister Olivia.
“I’m the youngest of three, so my sisters have always been role models for me and my family, especially my sister who took the trip with me. She always felt influenced by the stories and that oozed into me.” Koshy explains, adding that she started working with UNHCR a few years ago so she “could understand better [refugees’] challenges, but also their dreams and ambitions and the people they are.”
Koshy believes humanity is too often overlooked.
“Refugee is a term with a lack of understanding,” she says. “Put simply, the equation is ‘refugees are people’ and that’s the story we need to know. It allows us to be exposed to another culture that, when mixed with ours, makes our plate even tastier and sweeter.”
Koshy has seen this analogy work out quite literally: as part of her work with UNHCR, she took part in an activity with refugees where they trade food that represents their different cultures. A Syrian refugee, for example, handed Koshy a plate of falafel and she shared a plate of curry.
“And then we talked while we indulged. When one imagines the fusion of the flavors of our cultures on one plate, it becomes all the more layered and nuanced. And that is what my partnership with UNHCR is about.”
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As an organization, UNHCR helps refugees and displaced people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution. More than 80,000 refugees live in Za’atari camp in Jordan, which was set up by UNHCR after the start of the Syrian refugee crisis in March 2011. The Za’atari camp is now 10 years old and was established just over a year after the crisis began.
“It’s been 12 years [total] that these families lived in Jordan,” she says. “There are now 33 schools in Za’atari camp. There are community centers that they have created. And they also have another camp, Azraq Camp, which houses 40,000.”
“They offer protection. They are called caravans, but they are essentially temporary buildings given to these families. But the caravans have an expiration date, and it is coming soon.”
In Jordan, Koshy spent time in a trailer with a refugee named Rania, who lives with her mother and siblings.
“The walls are crumbling. They are content with what they have, but that is why UNHCR needs even more attention, awareness and information,” explains Koshy. “All the money, the donations, play a key role here.”
Koshy was also introduced to Dania, a young mother who is taking care of her son Jude while her husband is struggling with his eyesight.
“I got to sit with Dania and her baby and she had to face so many adversities and so many roadblocks on a road to keep trudging,” she recalls. “She has a husband who is losing his sight. She lost her father to cancer. She has this brand new baby and wants more, but financially things are not looking good for her. I asked you to describe a day in your life, tell me how it is for you.”
This traumatic experience of fleeing her home in Syria hurt Dania too much to think about it, although she told Koshy her son Jude brings her “joy” and “hope” for the future. Dania also stressed how helpful UNHCR had been.
“She was just so sweet and sharing with her baby all the time,” says Koshy. “She said, ‘I just want to give Jude opportunities that I didn’t have. I want him to have a life without the trauma. I don’t want to force those feelings on him.’”
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Koshy was also exposed to UNHCR’s TIGER (These Inspiring Girls Enjoy Reading) program for young women in Jordan, which also focuses on promoting literacy in both Arabic and English female empowerment by encouraging girls to take a stand against bullying.
“In Jordan, as young women, they face adversity. School bullies still exist in their world as if they don’t have enough on their plate. So the TIGER program helps them confront these bullies and treat them with love and kindness, as opposed to the way they are treated.”
Looking ahead, Koshy hopes to continue traveling and raising awareness with UNHCR, noting, “You never know who’s going to be bitten by that human love bug next.”
“It stirred my soul,” she summarizes her experience in Jordan. “I’ve built a high-profile career so that those more private, unheard, untold stories have a chance to get the mic raised [them]. I am so honored to do this. It’s their stories that need to be heard.”
To find out more about Liza Koshy, read this week’s issue of PEOPLE, out now on newsstands everywhere.
Source : news.yahoo.com