LLCC English students write for change

Megan Davis, Lamp writer

Going from classroom to classroom every day at school can be mundane.

English Professor Alison Stachera had assigned a routine reading of “Refugee” by Alan Gratz in her English 099 class. She noticed an art show opening in the James S. Murray Gallery about Syrian refugee artwork. Stachera figured she’d take them to see it.

“It perfectly coincided with my lesson plans. So I thought, ‘Why not?’ ” Stachera said.

The Stamps of Hope show includes paintings that depict life in war-torn Syria and the harsh realities of war and violence. The artwork was done by refugees living in a refugee camp in Jordan. Physics Assistant Professor Rihab Sawah, along with the Stamps of Hope Foundation, brought the show to Lincoln Land.

Stachera planned for students to write about their reactions to the art and how it communicates without speaking.

“It touched all of us deeply, but it touched me particularly. And when we arrived back to class, I wanted us to do something to help the refugees,” said LLCC student Kevin Kamde, who is from Cameroon, Africa.

It was this that would change the students’ mindsets. It was no longer about them and their needs; it was about what they could do to help others.

“Paintings can speak any language with no translator required. Even the most hard-hearted person could be softened by the piercing eyes of the children depicted in the paintings,” said student Marion Stonecipher.

Stonecipher wanted to do a fundraiser to help the class buy the painting, “Forced Displacement” by Mohammad Jokhader. This painting, in particular, touched the students the most. The painting depicted a mother with her baby, forced to escape her war-torn country.

“I mean thinking of a little kid going through that, it’s just awful,” said fellow student Jessica Higgerson.

With the help of Art Professor Thom Whalen making the T-shirts and the funding of Academic Services Vice President Vern Lindquist, the class created T-shirts to sell to fellow students and faculty members at $20 each.

The class came up with their fundraiser name, Writing for Change, once they got approved to do it. Inspired by their homework assignment of writing down their feelings of the artwork.

“It perfectly blends art and writing for the greater good,” Stachera said.

On Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, the class all gathered in the A.Lincoln Commons to sell T-shirts and baked goods. The students planned to raise $200 for the painting done by Jokhader, but they sold $700 instead. Enough money to buy at least two more paintings, and the rest going to the Stamps of Hope Foundation.

The whole class was at a loss for words when they saw Stachera count out the money they had earned.

“We now have the ability to buy other paintings that we originally couldn’t,” said Kamden. “It’s amazing to know that our hard work paid off,”

The mix of hard work and selflessness helped this small English class donate money toward Syrian refugees who would have never gotten such a thing if it weren’t for the students’ dedication.

“I didn’t even know who Dr. Stachera was, to be honest. But when I received an email from her for Writing for Change, I was speechless,” Sawah said.

Sawah invited Stachera’s class to come and present their idea during the gallery talk on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, to inform others about the Writing for Change fundraiser. This helped spread the word of the fundraiser and started a chain reaction of people wanting to participate and make a change.

“It definitely moved me, and it showed me how as human beings, we are connected,” Sawah said.

This one act that these students from a small community college has helped people from across the world. No language needed, emotions are speechless, everyone understands the value of compassion and selflessness.

“I didn’t think this would be more than just a homework assignment for them,” Stachera said. “It really warms my heart knowing that my students want to make a change in this world. We live in a country where you aren’t informed much about other countries’ problems. And it makes it really difficult to spread the news, and even with this small act, it does make a change and informs others who would’ve never known if it weren’t for them”

If anyone wishes to donate, they can still contact Stachera at [email protected].