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Arab American foundation launches fund to help Syrian refugees in Southeast Michigan

Newly-arrived Syrian refugees in Oakland County
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

An Arab American foundation has launched a fundraising campaign for new Syrian refugees in Southeast Michigan, raising more than $50,000 for 25 families. 

The Center for American Philanthropy (CAAP) in Dearborn created the Building Blocks for New Americans Fund to provide each family with basic needs like housing, clothing, and transportation. 

The fund is supported by large donors, who match all contributions by smaller community groups. 

Maha Freij is the Deputy Executive Director and CFO of ACCESS, a large Arab American nonprofit also based in Dearborn that oversees the center and its fundraising efforts. She believes these funds cover many of the services that the government is not able to provide for the refugees. 

"Having a shelter over their head, paying for the rent, their utilities, warm clothes - nobody is thinking about that and nobody has those line items in their budget," she said. "The first six to eight months they need some financial support that will allow them to cover their basic needs because the check they get from the government is not enough."

A group of ACCESS case managers selected the families for the program. They visited Syrian households in the Greater Detroit area to determine which were most in need of financial assistance.

Freij hopes to expand the scope of the foundation to include Syrian families beyond Michigan. She says 276 refugees came to the greater Detroit area in the last three months of 2016.

Mateus DeFaria is a Senior at the University of Michigan majoring in Political Science. Born and raised just outside of Los Angeles, he came to school in the midwest in efforts to expand his horizons and tackle new challenges far away from home (which may have at one time included learning how to do laundry).
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