By Jon Dusza
Over the next couple of weeks, Canisius’s Undergraduate Student Association’s (USA) J.U.S.T.I.C.E Committee is hosting a coat drive for the benefit of refugees in the Buffalo area.
The drive is being held with the help of Journey’s End Refugee Services, which is an organization dedicated to resettling refugees in the Buffalo area. The drive is, as the name would suggest, accepting lightly worn or newer coats, as well as other winter clothing items that students would be willing to donate.
The Griffin talked to Hawa Saleh, who is the chair of the J.U.S.T.I.C.E Committee and the leader of the coat drive. The goal of the coat drive, Saleh said, “is to give students an opportunity at Canisius to have a way to interact with their growing diverse community.”
Saleh talked about how for refugees, coming from places throughout the world, the Buffalo winter can be a shock. For people coming to Buffalo often with very little, any help refugees can receive to deal with the harsh winter goes a long way.
In recent years, Buffalo and Erie County have become a hub for refugee resettlement. Being a college which falls within that area, efforts to help refugees such as this take on a new meaning among the Canisius community. “Whenever you go out into Buffalo, you see so many different people,” Saleh said. “But knowing that [refugees] don’t have the opportunities that we have at our advantage, like having access to a new jacket right off the cuff … it makes me more aware of those issues and feel more emboldened to pursue those missions.”
Saleh helped run a coat drive similar to this one in the fall semester of 2021 to aid refugees from Afghanistan who were staying on the Canisius campus. The coat drive last year was a success, collecting over 50 pieces of winter clothing, such as coats, hats and gloves, in addition to raising over $1,600. “Remembering how great of a success that was,” said Saleh, “I was like, okay, why don’t we just try to extend this beyond campus?”
While the drive will not be accepting straight cash donations this time around, it is still much in the same vein as the coat drive from last school year. “I think it would be a cool tradition to have,” she continued. “The first coat drive wasn’t a USA J.U.S.T.I.C.E initiative, but I wanted to have J.U.S.T.I.C.E to have a stake in it. Whether or not this lives beyond me as chair is up to the future J.U.S.T.I.C.E chairs, but hopefully it does.”
Saleh says that her goal through the coat drive is to donate over 100 coats. She said, “So far, we have a big bag filled up with coats, but the Campus Ministry closet is big, so it looks like it’s just in its own little corner.”
Drives such as these are a way for Canisius to live up to the Jesuit values which it seeks to espouse. “Cura personalis is care for the mind, body and soul,” Saleh said. “We should try to do more in the sense that we also want to care for other people’s minds, bodies and souls. And that concept matches all throughout Canisius; there’s never a day where I walk by Tim’s and don’t smile at least one person.”
Coats and other winter apparel can be dropped off in the Campus Ministry office in Old Main 207. The drive will last until Feb. 28 to give students time to get together items they are able to donate. New clothes are welcome, but lightly used clothes will be accepted as well, Saleh emphasized.
Reflecting on the success of the coat drive from last year, Saleh said, “I remember that the smile on my face never waned. And I think just seeing students having a more of an active role in shaping their community and fulfilling their civic duty was an honor.”