CASA at U of M hopes to host most successful fundraiser yet
By Ashourina Slewo
Continuing the long standing tradition, University of Michigan’s Chaldean American Student Association (CASA) chapter is hosting their tenth annual Live From Babylon event. Live From Babylon is U of M CASA’s largest fundraiser of the year. Members of every CASA chapter are invited for a night out in Ann Arbor to enjoy food, entertainment and networking.
“We invite members from all the CASA chapters to join us for a night out at one of Ann Arbor’s hot spots to enjoy a night of food, dancing, and getting to see people from other schools,” said Britanny Hamama, president of U of M’s CASA. “University of Michigan CASA has been hosting Live From Babylon for about 10 years now and this year the event will take place at BTB Cantina on March 9th 2018.”
In an effort to alleviate as much of the event expenses, CASA reaches out to businesses to sponsor the fundraiser. “We try and collect as many donations, monetary and raffle prizes, to help eliminate as much expenses as we can in order to donate as much as possible to our recipient,” explained Hamama. “We are always looking for people to sponsor the event in any type of way.”
Each year, members of CASA present charities that they believe should be the year’s beneficiary. The chapter then votes on which candidate will be honored at the event. In previous years, CASA has honored charities such as MERCY and TEACH of Help Iraq.
This year, CASA will be honoring CODE Legal Aid. “A couple of members brought up all the hard work and efforts that CODE has been doing especially these past few months with the detainee crisis going on in our community,” said Hamama. “Our chapter believes that CODE and its members have truly made a difference in our community and we would love to give back to them.”
The hopes for this year’s event is to not only raise the largest goal of $10,000, but to bring people together and put a spotlight on the work of CODE Legal Aid over the last several months. “This event is important because it not only is bringing people from all over together, but it’s also bringing awareness to organizations that help our people who go through more problems than we can imagine,” explained Hamama.
CODE Legal Aid is a non-profit organization founded by attorneys Nadine Yousif Kalasho and Nora Youkhana. CODE Legal Aid is dedicated to providing legal advocacy and assistance to the Middle Eastern community. “Shortly after Nora and I finished Law School, we felt like it was time to establish a clinic that would serve a great need,” explained Kalasho. “Since my family operates schools that have a significant immigrant/refugee population, Nora and I figured that we could start out by servicing local families by offering seminars, pro-bono immigration work and advocacy.”
Through their organization, CODE Legal Aid and their volunteers have been able to assist several members of the Chaldean community. “We live in extremely trying times, and the uncertainty facing immigrant communities is rapidly increasing,” said Kalasho. “Cultural and language barriers often lead to panic. Having members within the community that can advocate and counsel them is crucial.”
Most recently, and the reason for this honor, CODE Legal Aid has spearheaded the fight to help hundreds of Iraqi nationals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) alongside the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
As CODE Legal Aid receives this honor, CODE and their many volunteers continue their effort to aid the community during this crisis, measuring their successes by the people they can help. “Ultimately, our successes are determined by the communities we serve,” said Kalasho. “If we can shield the vulnerable among us enough that they no longer have to cower in fear or feel marginalized, then we can count that as an achievement.”
For Kalasho, this honor not only highlights the tireless work of her and her partner’s, but it also brings a certain air of sentimentality as her brother, a U of M alum, founded the Live From Babylon event during his time as a member of U of M’s CASA chapter. “We shared a laugh about things coming full circle,” said Kalasho. “I’m truly humbled by the honor, and I’m looking forward to the event.”
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