Centenary students raise money for Doctors Without Borders

Students who participated in the fundraiser included (l to r) Kiley Simpson, Sierra Worman, Joshua David, Amir Kaskas, and Trey Davis.

SHREVEPORT, LA — After observing the suffering caused by the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria, a group of Centenary College students have raised nearly $300 for the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders. The students sold sweets on campus leading up to the College’s spring finals week and will donate all proceeds to Doctors Without Borders.

“The news of the chemical attack in Syria sent shockwaves through the community,” says Centenary freshman Amir Kaskas. “I saw my younger relatives in those dying children, and couldn’t tear myself away from the fact that under different circumstances it could have been my family that was killed, and it could have been me. Syrian civilians are in dire need of help, and healthcare is an apolitical, universal need and right.”

Kaskas helped organize the Doctors Without Borders donation project through the student leadership team of Centenary’s new Beliefs and Values group.  Beliefs and Values is an inter-religious, inter-cultural group founded this year by philosophy professor Dr. Chris Ciocchetti and College Chaplain Maegan Habich. The group’s student leadership team has mediated conversations about inter-religious connection and acceptance for a wider campus audience and has plans for expanding the scope and reach of the organization in the 2017-2018 academic year.

“We wanted to bring together students with different beliefs – about God, about religion, about what’s important in life – to talk about their beliefs,” says Ciocchetti. “We’ve listened to each other talk about our hopes and our doubts, and we’ve really come to know each other. Religious differences have brought us together rather than driven us apart. We are all learning to become leaders and peacemakers across differences.”

For the students, organizing the successful Doctors Without Borders fundraiser was the culmination of a productive first year for the Beliefs and Values group.

“All the perspectives and dialogues we had during our weekly meetings set the foundation for this fundraiser,” says Kaskas. “In order to truly live out the beliefs and values that we had discussed and realized commonly governed our lives, we needed to be a force for change.”

Current participants in the group identify as Christian, Catholic, Methodist, Pagan, Atheist, and Muslim. Students Coco Edwards, Bailey MacDonald, Kaitlyn Frantz, and Kaskas attended a conference sponsored by Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) in January 2017, and Ciocchetti has been accepted to an upcoming multidisciplinary seminar, on Teaching Interfaith Understanding, sponsored by IFYC and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC).

Ciocchetti and Habich have also been awarded a curriculum development grant from IFYC to develop and teach a course, “Beliefs and Values in Shreveport and Paris,” as part of Centenary’s Centenary in Paris program for first year students.