As a child, Obaida Omar fled the Soviet invasion of her native Afghanistan, walking for weeks through the mountains.

“During the day we had to hide in the villages because of the bombing,” said Omar, now a mother of three and Islamic Center of Rochester board member. “I walked on dead bodies. And up till today, it still haunts me when I think back.”

Omar, who moved to the U.S. around 13, provided first-hand experience last Saturday of what it means to be a child displaced by war as the keynote speaker at the “Dinner for Peace,” hosted by the Student Association for the Development of Arab Cultural Awareness.

About 250 guests attended the dinner, the proceeds of which are intended to fund education for children affected by the Middle Eastern refugee crisis.

“Children did not create this conflict, but they are its greatest victims,” said Alanoud Alzaid, the group’s president, who gave the opening address at the dinner.

Junior Deema Abdo, co-founder of the non-profit Education for a Peaceful Middle East, helped explain the impact this dinner would have in the context of the Syrian refugee crisis.

“Tonight we have raised roughly $3,000 in profit, which means over 1,000 children can get the education they deserve,” she said. “Without you, tonight would not have been possible.”

The YellowJackets kicked the night off with a selection of lively songs, designed to animate their audience.

The Sihir belly dancing ensemble also performed, with pride and authority in their costumes of shimmering gold and bright coral colours.

“We’ve been planning this for two months now. It feels wonderful to see such an amazing turnout,” said Alzaid. “It reminds me that there is still humanity in each and every one of us.”

On all accounts, the dinner was a success.

“We’ve been planning this for two months now. It feels wonderful to see such an amazing turnout,” said Alzaid. “It reminds me that there is still humanity in each and every one of us.”

The audience was also full of praise.

“It’s putting faces to the things we always hear about,” sophomore Gabby Stillman said. “It brings back that human element and makes you remember that we’re all the same.”



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