Columbia woman to take donations to refugees in Greece

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COLUMBIA - A Columbia woman will travel to Greece Thursday, on behalf of a non-profit organization, to deliver a load of donations from the community to refugees from Syria and other countries.

Rasha Abousalem is a member of Global First Responders, and when someone heard she wanted to go help refugees in Greece, he bought her a ticket. 

An influx of Syrian refugees has been coming to Greece because of the Syrian war and the threat of terrorist groups like ISIS. There are refugees from other countries as well and people who have been double-displaced.

"There's a lot of people in the world suffering from injustice and war and violence," Abousalem said. "We really have to start just being caring for everybody and considerate and loving. I don't care where you're from, I don't care what you believe in. This is just the right thing to do."

Abousalem said when she posted a note on the door of downtown Columbia's Islamic Center and told her husband's colleagues about her trip, the donations started pouring in.

"I'm speechless," Abousalem said. "To be honest, it's brought me close to tears several times."

Along with clothing items like shoes, underwear and head scarves, people have been donating money. Abousalem said she will use the money to transport all of the items and to buy food for refugees. 

Her husband, Rick Baker, is on the board of Global First Responders. He said he wishes he could go too, but Abousalem is the best person for the job.

"With her background in international human rights and refugees and her language skills and her knowledge of the culture and the area, she's going be the perfect one to go in and be able to tell us what we need to do to be effective when we go back in January," Baker said.

Recently, President Barack Obama said he'll allow 10,000 Syrian refugees to come to the United States.

The office manager at Columbia's Immigration Services said he has not received a notice of any Syrians coming to Columbia.

The organization plans to return in January for a medical relief trip with more donations.