Alumnus Sets Goal to Aid Syrian Refugees

Max Holland, ESIA BA '09

Max Holland, ESIA BA ’09

In February 2014, Max Holland, ESIA BA ’09, will move to Brazil to participate in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships Program.   While there, his mission will be to help improve his students’ English language skills and their knowledge of the United States.

But before he goes, he’s on a different mission.

Holland has created a grassroots fundraising campaign, “Solar Powered Lights and School Supplies for Syrian Refugees,” to both help prevent sexual violence against women, and provide school supplies to residents of the Al Zaatari Refugee Camp in Syria.

Inspired after reading an article about these issues, Holland says he felt “uniquely positioned with time and access to contribute in a meaningful way.”

Holland’s project has two goals: placing solar-powered LED lights near the camp’s bathrooms to decrease sexual assault of the female population; and providing supplemental school supplies to support the camp’s student population.

For Holland, the project is largely empathetic in nature. “I want people to place themselves in the shoes of the refugees,” he says.  “When people in the developed peaceful world have to use the bathroom, they walk down the hall or stop at a store.  In the Al Za’atari refugee camp, people have to walk in darkened areas in front of thousands of similarly displaced people. They constantly fear for their safety.”

Aerial view of Al Zaatari Refugee Camp (courtesy UNOSAT)

Holland says he also wants people to understand that they can make a difference. “We listen to the news, and it feels like just more media to be consumed.  But it’s not. There are so many avenues to contribute in this world,” he says.

The urge to contribute has long been a part of Holland’s life.  His passion for helping others was fueled when he lived in rural Thailand during his time at GW.

“It was my first truly international experience,” Holland explains. “It showed me many things, but none clearer than this: that there are people in the world who are subjected to incredible hardships simply because of their position in the world.”

Holland also credits GW for putting him on the path to helping others. “The classes I took provided me with the educational background to understand the world,” he says.  “The internships provided me with the experience to understand what I was learning.  The connections, including the friends I made, serve as incredible resources. “

Now, Holland is putting those skills, as well as his degree in law, to use with his latest project.

“A refugee camp is a chaotic, ever-changing place,” he acknowledges.  “If I am able to contribute in any way to improving the lives of those marginalized communities, then I have done something to improve the world around me. That should be the goal of every global citizen.”

Even if Holland doesn’t reach his goal, the money he raises will go to the UN’s request for tents and cooking equipment in the camp.

“No matter what,” Holland says, “people will know that they matter and can contribute in a meaningful way.”

Want to help fund the project? Visit the project’s site for more information.

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