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A Syrian refugees living in Northern Iraq refugee camp receives schools supplies form TentEd. (Courtesy)

Army veterans work to help Syrian refugees


After a successful first trip this spring, organziers of the Syrian refugee relief mission TentEd have launched TentEd 2.0.

“Our goal is to raise $15,000 between now and Dec. 25,” said Zack Bazzi, who traveled to Iraq in June to distribute school supplies, uniforms and bus services to children living in refugee camps.

Bazzi, who splits his time between Manchester and Washington, D.C., is one of three U.S. Army veterans, who launched the project to provide children living in Syrian refugee camps in northern Iraq with much-needed school supplies.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are registered in these refugee camps in Iraq, according to TentEd, which was started by veterans Bazzi, Patrick Hu, originally of New Jersey, and Scott Quilty, originally of Francestown.

“It’s a pretty urgent crisis, there are almost 250,000 Syrian refugees registered in the Kurdish region of Iraq,” Bazzi said Thursday.

This time around though, Bazzi said he expects to be aiding children who are internal refugees as well. Iraqi Christians and Yazidi have been persecuted by the Islamic State and have fled to Northern Iraq since Bazzi’s last visit this spring.

“It’s obviously testing the capacity of the Kurdistan region,” Bazzi said.

The Kurdistan or Northern region of Iraq is very diverse with Christian churches and communities that go back to the dawn of Christianity, Bazzi said.

Fortunately Islamic State hasn’t made any gains in the region, he said, adding he expects the region to be safe and secure. “It’s safe. It’s stable,” he said.

This spring Bazzi went to the region with $17,000 that he and his friends raised for the children. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the three friends share an affinity for the region and the people.

Bazzi used the money to help the local economy and build relationships with the regional vendors.

He bought books for school libraries and paper and pens and other school supplies for the students. He also bought students’ uniforms, which are mandatory for the schools there, he said.

He also paid for three months of school bus service. Many of the schools are a distance from the refugee camps and the parents cannot afford the $50 or $100 a month to pay for their children to ride the school bus.

“From my point of view that was the most important thing,” Bazzi said of paying for bus services.

“That’s the difference between a kid going to school or not going to school.”

He also bought shoes for hundreds of students. TentEd often fills the needs left unmet by larger relief organizations that do a lot, but have a narrower focus than TentEd, Bazzi said. Bazzi said since he is visiting during the winter he may be buying winter clothes for the students.

“If I show up and the kids are going to school without jackets, I want to buy jackets,” Bazzi said.

Bazzi said people can donate to TentEd at www.epic-usa.org/whatwedo/tented.

mpierce@newstote.com