SUNY Empire State College Raises Funds For Students in Lebanon

AUT’s main academic partner, State University of New York Empire State College has launched a campaign to raise funds to help students enrolled in the joint program pay their tuition fees during these difficult times. It has sent its faculty and staff encouragement to donate money through the webpage and is extending the call to the community in upstate New York at large.

In turn, AUT is forwarding this call for donation to its community and alumni. You can read below the text sent to the ESC community.

“Dear Friend,

As many of you know, the recent explosions that took place in Beirut had devastating effects on the Lebanese economy, infrastructure, society, and government, as well as people’s livelihoods. Prior to the explosions, Lebanon was already experiencing a dire economic crisis which had resulted in strict capital control and a high inflation in the local currency. Banks are only allowing people to take out a small prescribed amount of money each month, and the cost of goods at supermarkets and elsewhere have quadrupled. Some of our students are often without electricity, and many are now stressed over being able to feed themselves and their families.

After the explosions, I talked to dozens of our students, past and present. My first concern was to make sure that they and their loved ones were okay. Then I listened to their stories. Each one had their own soon-to-be “historic” memory of what they were doing at the time of the great explosion. At first, I asked them simply out of curiosity, and to get a humanized context of the event. I listened to their tales of leaving work in the Port area early that day, or having just returned from St. George’s Hospital, which was destroyed in the explosion, and other “just in time” or “randomly lucky” stories. I soon came to see how therapeutic it was for them to recount these events, as they struggled to contextualize their own narratives.

No matter how many stories I heard, they all seemed to end with a big thank you to God for saving them, and how grateful they were to be alive. They said this even in situations where their homes were destroyed, and even if they or a loved one had been seriously hurt. They counted their blessings and quickly shifted their focus on helping others.

What our students are doing

Almost immediately, our students began telling me about their help with the cleanup efforts, almost all of which is citizen-based. They took to the streets of Beirut and removed debris and clutter. They helped to search for and rescue survivors, to provide medical care to those who needed it, and to house those who no longer had a home. Some of our students joined and even started small local NGOs with the purpose of collecting food, medicine and construction supplies. One student raised money to fund surgery for a man who had seriously injured his eye in the blast. Another student said he went to the local hospital and helped them deal with the inflow and help worried relatives find hurt loved ones. Many of our students are still tirelessly working to rebuild their city, and to help their fellow citizens. Never, in all of the years that I have worked for the Lebanon program, have I seen the country so united.

How can we help our students?

Even though they are tough and self-reliant, our students also need our help. Many are not sure if they can continue their studies this academic year due to the extreme difficulty of being able to find money to pay their tuition. Some have told me that they or their parents have recently lost their jobs due to the extensive lockdowns from Covid-19, and now, due to the destruction of many businesses in the Beirut area.

Introducing the #BeirutSolidarity fundraising campaign

SUNY Empire has decided to act. When pandemic or disaster strikes, our SUNY Empire community here in New York, in Beirut, and all over the world, springs to action.

We are asking anyone who is in a position to help, to consider making a gift to this fund, that will be put to work immediately to support our students in the Lebanon Residency Program. Every gift matters and will make a difference. All gifts that we receive will help students in this program pay their tuition so that they can continue working towards completing their degree.

Your gift will enable some students to graduate, and others to be one step closer to graduation. It will make a real difference in the lives of these ambitious young people.

How can I donate to the #BeirutSolidarity fund?

If you would like to help, please consider making a gift to the #BeirutSolidarity fund today at: For more information, write to [email protected] .

Thank you to each one of you who are able to make a contribution and help our students in Lebanon during this very pressing time. Please know that your gift, this small act of kindness, will be appreciated beyond words. We will be accepting contributions throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, and hope to help our students pay for their few remaining courses each term.

Thank you, also, to those of you who have reached out to us at the Center of International Education, or directly to the students in Lebanon. They have been touched with gratitude that we hold them in our thoughts and hearts, and have not forgotten them.

Warm Regards,

Jeannine Mercer

Academic Program Director, Lebanon Residency Program

State University of New York, Empire State College, Center for International Education

P.S. Please share this with anyone you think might be interested in helping, both in and outside of the SUNY Empire community. “

AUT is proud to be associated to SUNY Empire State College