Mars’ Hill: What is TRAC?
Jordan Koslowsky: Trinity Refugee Awareness Campaign (TRAC) is a student-led initiative that seeks to respond to the global refugee crisis. Our main goals are to raise awareness and provide opportunities for action to the multiple demographics of the Trinity Western University community (students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents). In order to accomplish these goals, we are partnering with local sponsorship groups and organizations to provide volunteering opportunities for TWU students. We hope to create easily accessible avenues for students to support these groups while making a tangible influence in the lives of local refugees. Our other main project is to sponsor a refugee family through a partnership with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). By doing this we are committed to raise $34,000 and to walk alongside this family as they transition to life in Canada.
MH: Tell us a bit about who you are and why you started TRAC.
JK: I am a second-year International Studies major from Abbotsford. I started TRAC after my heart was grabbed by the Middle Eastern refugee crisis to the degree that I knew I had to act. This past May I went to Israel and Palestine with Global Projects (TWU’s missions program), and three weeks into the trip I stood on top of Mount Hermon. This mountain is located in the north-eastern corner of the Israel and if the sky was clear, I would have been able to see Damascus. I stood there staring at one of the largest ongoing conflicts in the world, but I was completely safe, merely another foreigner enjoying the view.
In the middle of August, after I returned home, another image left a lasting impression on my heart. I woke up to go to work and saw a notification on my phone about the bombings in Aleppo with a video attached to the article. I opened the video to see a little boy, around four or five years old. This little boy, named Omran Daqneesh, had just been pulled out of a bombed building and was carried through a chaotic group of responders to an ambulance. He was placed on a chair and was left alone as the group continued to search for more survivors. In complete shock, Omran sat there covered in blood and dust. Too traumatized to cry, he raised his left hand to his head only to pull it back and see blood. He rubbed his hand on the seat in an attempt to wipe the blood off, but he was covered. As I watched this video, emotions welled up inside of me.
The image of Omran is a harsh reminder of the terror and instability that refugees around the globe are trying to escape. Right then, I made a commitment to do everything that I could to make a difference. I knew that millions of people were watching this video and I know that so many of them are capable of making a difference, but only a small percentage are actually acting. I refuse to be part of the populace sitting idle.
MH: What contact have you experienced with refugees and how has that changed your perspective?
JK: Every time I have interacted with refugees one major thing has been reinforced: they are people. They are people just like you and me, with a beautiful culture and a background that we cannot comprehend. In a time when the “us vs. them” mentality is spreading it is critical to remember this. Remember that they are broken and that we are broken but that all our lives will be enriched by embracing the other and seeing the beauty in this.
MH: What do you hope to accomplish this year?
JK: I have very few specific goals for TRAC this year. TRAC started as an idea, and in the last three months it has flourished. TRAC’s growth has been guided by the hand of God and I am excited to see how He continues to work through it and use the individuals involved as stewards of His grace.
MH: What has been the greatest frustration for this project?
JK: Other than minor logistical obstacles, there have been very few frustrations throughout the development of TRAC. The only thing that has been saddening is that, while most people are extremely encouraging, some have expressed a fear of what we are doing. Whether it is for religious, political, or economic reasons it has become a widespread mindset that welcoming refugees is a threat to our lifestyles and safety. People forget that it is real peace-loving people that are suffering, and extend dangerous generalizations to cultures that we are not familiar with. If TRAC isn’t interesting to you, I plead with you to at least educate yourself. Learn about what is happening in the areas of conflict, and try and understand the reality of refugees around the world.
MH: Is this a specifically Christian project for you?
JK: There is a strong Christian foundation to TRAC and each member of the Leadership Committee views this as an opportunity to share the love of Christ with people from around the world. However, one’s involvement in TRAC does not require a Christian faith. We view the refugee crisis as an issue for all of mankind and we want people, regardless of their spiritual state, to feel welcome in our mission to learn from and enrich the lives of refugees.
MH: Where have you seen God’s direction active within this project?
JK: I can confidently say that everything that has happened has been directed by God. I am extremely unqualified to be leading this project, but I know that I am called to be doing what I am doing and he has been working through TRAC. Every single instance of growth has been both surprising and encouraging, from the formation of the Leadership Committee, to the enthusiasm of professors and other local organizations, God has been working in TRAC and in the hearts of the people involved.
MH: Why should a normal, busy student at TWU be thinking about the refugee crisis?
JK: Because every life matters. Because you can make a difference. Because it affects all of us. Because, as Edmund Burke put it, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And because we are global citizens and we have an obligation to engage in an issue that continues to ravage lives.
If you want more information or have questions regarding TRAC, contact Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org.