As Emily Mauldin walked by Library West on Monday morning, she noticed an unusual sight in the Plaza of the Americas: a pitched tent.
Inside, there was loose clothing, some newspapers, pillows and a small stuffed giraffe. The items represented potential belongings of an imaginary Syrian family.
The 18-year-old UF chemistry junior was one of about 20 people who stopped at a small blue tent. It was set up by Students Organize for Syria to simulate the living conditions experienced by refugees of the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian Center for Policy Research estimates roughly 470,000 Syrians were killed in the ongoing civil war from 2011 to 2016. In that same time period, an estimated 6 million refugees have attempted to escape the violence.
Sophia Timm, the organization’s chair for the Books Not Bombs campaign, said she put the event together for those forgotten victims. The display was meant to raise awareness for the national Books Not Bombs campaign, which tries to give scholarships to refugees.
Timm, a 21-year-old UF biology and anthropology senior, said she, along with her club, donated the tent and supplies out of pocket. She said it's important students stay up-to-date on the conflict and to not be fooled by misinformation that might keep them from getting involved.
The Books Not Bombs campaign has been receiving a lot of support from other college campuses because students understand the value of a good education, she said.
But the campaign hasn’t been able to secure any Florida scholarships, Timm said. So Students Organize for Syria plans to educate people about the Books Not Bombs’ fundraiser and online petitions to try and make the scholarship a statewide award.
"The best way to help refugees is to educate them," Timm said. "When the conflict is over, Syria is going to need doctors and lawyers and people who are educated to rebuild."
Maudlin said that with the news focused on the airstrikes in Syria ordered by President Donald Trump Friday night, refugees haven't received as much coverage as they should.
According to NPR, the airstrikes targeted the facilities of the Syrian government connected to a recent chemical weapons attack on civilians.
"The victims get forgotten when politics are involved," Maudlin said. "I think it's really deplorable."
Sophia Timm, a 21-year-old UF biology and anthropology senior and the Students Organize for Syria’s chair for the Books Not Bombs campaign, holds up a sign outside the mock-refugee tent. Students Organize for Syria say the display simulates the living conditions of refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War.