Awareness Conference focuses on global issues

The Hart Global Living and Learning Center will hold its third annual Global Awareness Conference next month as an ongoing effort to raise awareness of critical issues throughout the world.

The conference will take place on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7 in Hart Hall and is open to the entire community.

The goal of the conference is to increase awareness of critical issues and educate attendees about different countries throughout the world. Each floor in Hart Hall will feature different presentations from select countries.

Keith Davis, who works in the international education and programs office on campus, will give a presentation on a region in southern Italy during the conference. Davis said there are more aspects of Italian culture than meets the eye. He will present different Italian foods, music, dance videos and photos to promote Italian culture.

Created in early 2009, the Oswego Has Heart program within the Hart Hall Global Living and Learning Center has combined international studies with community service. The organization looks at critical issues such as poverty, conflict or inequality in other cultures and determines how Hart Hall students can become involved with efforts to assists those in need.

The organization’s coordinator and psychology professor, Dr. Rebecca Burch is hoping this year’s Global Awareness Conference will make Oswego Has Heart more visible on campus and in the community, as well as increase the number of volunteers in the program.

"People may not have cash to donate, but need to understand there are other resources that can help," Burch said.

She notes how simple items such as chalk, crayons, rulers or writing utensils are scarce in many places.

In September, Burch traveled to New York City to present items collected in Oswego to Haider Hamza, the Iraqi refugee and photojournalist who was the keynote speaker during the Global Awareness Conference last year.

Recently, Burch traveled to Damascus, Syria to join Hamza on the final week of his one month visit. She and Hamza spent time in an Iraqi refugee camp assessing the needs of school children and witnessing the efforts of her organization. Burch said the highlight of her visit was seeing the first licensed day care center in an Iraqi refugee camp in Syria in operation. Before this center opened, Burch described day care centers as "crowded empty rooms with mats and no games."

Hamza will be the keynote speaker again this year. He will speak in Lanigan 101 at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7. His discussions are to include Iraqi life as troops withdraw, what it’s like to be an Iraqi refugee, and how Oswego State’s efforts have made a difference in the lives of refugees in Syria.

The conference will also include presentations of research, international experiences, martial arts, dance, art and other related activities.

The organization has asked that attendees bring school supplies for Beninese school children, health and beauty products (such as soap or shampoo) for tsunami victims, or clothing items for Iraqi refugees in Syria. This is strictly voluntary.