Two international students to testify at UN about their experiences as refugees from Syria, Nepal

Two Salve Regina international students who managed to escape civil wars in their native countries of Syria and Nepal to pursue their academic dreams in the United States have been invited to testify at the United Nations about their personal life experiences. Sinan Zeino of Syria and Uma Chapagain of Nepal will be the main speakers in New York City on Thursday, Nov. 12 during Teen Thursdays, a program sponsored by the NYC Department of Education and the UN.

Both students are scholarship recipients at Salve Regina. Zeino received a Syria Consortium scholarship dedicated to students whose education has been interrupted by the crisis in Syria. Chapagain, a nursing major, is a recipient of the Aquidneck Island Multicultural Scholarship. Their trip to the United Nations has been funded by Salve’s Office of International Programs, the Provost’s office and Student Affairs office.

The students were invited to testify by Kathryn Good, director of Group Programmes at the UN, who connected with Zeino and Chapagain while working with Salve’s Office of International Programs on summer language programs.

In addition to their speaking roles in the Teen Thursday program, they will also be participants in the UN’s NGO Youth Led Briefing on Climate Action called “Youth at the Forefront; Bridging the Gap Between Climate Change and Climate Action” and participate in a luncheon meeting at The Bahá’í International Community, United Nations Office.

Sinan Zeino

After being awarded a full-tuition scholarship at Salve Regina, Zeino created a gofundme.com page in an effort to raise money to cover additional expenses such as airfare, books, health insurance, visa and other fees.

On that page, he writes: “There is a brutal civil war in my home country of Syria. I have survived a bus explosion, lost many of my friends and have almost been killed many times myself. This did not stop me from attending classes at my school in Homs. However, when things started to get worse and out of control, I have been forced to move to another city of Syria. I am no longer able to attend school, and my dreams of obtaining an education are vanishing.

“I was certain that if I stayed in Syria, my dreams and life would vanish. With your generous big hearts, and with the help of friends and people I have met and never met before, I was able to make the biggest step in my life. I was able to get to U.S. and start my education where I am now having a great schooling system and great supportive community and friends.

“I have decided that the best way to pay you and pay the community back is to be a social worker. Being a social worker will pave my way to make a real difference in the U.S, in the world and most importantly in my wounded country Syria.”

Uma Chapagain

Chapagain’s parents lived in Nepal until being forced to flee into Bhutan as refugees. “I was born in that refugee camp and lived there the first 13 years of life in the poorly conditioned refugee camp. Life in the camp was not very safe or peaceful. I remember the days when our tent was blown away by flood in one season and was burned by fire the next season. However, I had my parents to protect me from every bit of the disasters. There I witnessed a lot of pain and it was then I decided to become someone who would help others and get rid of pain.”

The following appeared in the winter 2015 Massachusetts Educational Opportunity Association newsletter.

One of few from her community who was able to attend school and study while in the refugee camp, thanks to funding from NGO Caritas Nepal, Chapagain parlayed that into the opportunity to emigrate to the U.S., where she enrolled in the federally funded Educational Talent Search program in Massachusetts before ultimately matriculating as an undergraduate at Salve Regina.

“I am able to attend college, which was rarely possible if I had held myself back in Nepal,” she stated. “Today I feel extremely fortunate to be eligible in furthering my education at Salve Regina University; this is an honor that makes me feel proud.”

Chapagain plans to share her good fortune and life experiences with others as she continues in her studies.“Since I am planning to become a nurse practitioner and help people around me, I have the responsibility to pay it forward to other people who are in need. I will pay it forward through my work, my time, my compassion for others and try to give hope to people who are in pain and suffering.”