CASA leaders seek to give aid to Chaldean refugees



By Sarah Wojcik

Founded in the 1980s, the originators of the Chaldean American Student Association hoped to create a program that would encourage Chaldean Americans to complete their degrees.

As Chaldeans migrated from Iraq to Michigan, few were able to conform to the strict standards of American schools. Support for the students completing their studies at universities was a necessity.

“As it has become more common for Chaldean Americans to complete their degrees, I have found that the goal and mission of CASA has changed,” Chanel Shina, president of CASA, said. “We now strive to bring Chaldean students together and also to support our community’s charities.”

Another goal of CASA includes portraying the Chaldean community positively.

Vice President Janel Ayar is not concerned with negative stereotypes, but with the lack of awareness of the community’s potential.

“We hope to create an image for the Chaldean community, rather than to expunge any,” Ayar said. “Even in Iraq, Chaldeans were a minority, but somehow gained the respect of the majority. Our mission is to do that here at Oakland University.”

With membership typically standing at about thirty members, the productivity of the club has fluctuated with leadership. Shina and Ayar are both excited to make changes within the organization, hoping to get involved with other cultural groups at Oakland.

With CASA branches existing at more than half of the colleges in Michigan, the OU CASA has gained the reputation of hosting an annual fashion show that brings in high numbers in donations.

CASA also sponsors weekly events such as bowling nights, food drives, a powderpuff football game and an annual trip to Cedar Point.

The new leaders for the 2011-12 academic school year have made giving back to their community a priority.

“My hope for the coming year is that we raise more money for refugees. With the opportunities and resources we have, we should be giving back more,” Ayar said.

The refugees she refers to are Chaldean runaways from Iraq who have fled to America in order to avoid religious persecution. Shina and Ayar are clear that this cause will be first among those they support.

The Chaldean American Student Association is open to all members of any race. The club is scheduled to meet once a month in the Oakland Center.

For more information, refer to the CASA Facebook page, “Chaldean American Student Association — OU Chapter.”