Refugee Relief Efforts the Focus of Southeast Alumni

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Southeast Missouri State University alumni Ned and Marian Walsh have dedicated years toward improving the lives of others—Marian as an elementary school teacher, and Ned  in ministry and non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.  Their commitment to service recently led the couple, both now retired, to the Middle East, where they spent time in Amman, Jordan, assisting refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria.

Ned and Marian are both graduates of Southeast’s Class of 1965.  Ned earned a Bachelor of Arts in history, and Marian holds a Bachelor of Science in Education, elementary education.  Their careers led them to their current home in Princeton, North Carolina, where they raised their family. When they learned the non-profit Collateral Repair Project was looking for volunteers to help with refugee relief efforts, they welcomed the opportunity to work overseas.

“You may be familiar with the refugees living in ‘tent cities’ sponsored by the United Nations,” Ned said, “but only 20 percent of the refugees are housed there.  The remaining refugees have fled to the urban cities such as Beirut and Amman.  This is a tremendous burden to the host countries.”

Ned and Marian were in Amman Oct. 16-Nov. 4. There, they spent their time visiting refugee families that had applied for assistance and then working to process the applications of families that had applied— as many as 165 families in a single day.  Marian also led the after-school program for refugee children, and Ned worked with the relief organization to ensure payment of school tuition for children who could not otherwise afford to go to school.

Now that they have returned from their travels, the couple is focused on educating Americans about the ravages of war and the moral necessity of assisting all people, regardless of geography, religion or age.

“We look at our days at Southeast as a time of building a firm foundation for forming a world view that led us to be open and inclusive—to spending a lifetime in learning and growing intellectually,” said Marian.

Ned agreed.  “It’s so important to understand other cultures and to keep on learning throughout your lifetime.”

The couple said the trip was life-changing, but that they will especially remember the children, the innocent victims of the war.

“These families don’t want to relocate, they don’t want to lose their identities,” Ned said.  “The refugees are just like all of us.  They just want to go home.”