CASA chapters leave the Chaldean imprint across college campuses
By Weam Namou
As high school graduates prepare for college, the Chaldean American Student Association (CASA) prepares to help make it a pleasing and productive experience for them. An educational non-profit organization, their mission is to assist these students in furthering their education while maintaining a positive representation of the Chaldean community. Among many things, CASA concentrates on community service, networking, and charity. Their chapters are found throughout America and each caters to the various needs of their members.
For instance, the chapters at Michigan State University and University of Michigan have a special focus on the home-away-from-home dynamics since the students live at least an hour away from home.
Michigan State University
“We’ve established a Chaldean community to bring Chaldeans together, so they can meet new people and network,” said Krystal Hamama, president of CASA at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Here are some of the events that occur at Michigan State approximately once a semester:
• Cooking dinner for the Ronald McDonald House, which gives families a place to stay while their child is being treated at the adjacent Sparrow Hospital.
• A visit by one of the Chaldean priests, who gives a talk to CASA members and does mass inside the parish of St. John Student Center.
• Food night, a favorite event, is a gathering hosted by the president of CASA, where a Middle Eastern dish such as dolma (in the fall) and kubba hamouth (in winter) is prepared by either one of the students’ grandmother or the members themselves.
• Chaldean Day at the Rock – where members paint the Chaldean Flag on the famous MSU rock. They arrive there at night and guard the rock so no other group paints over it. During the day, they pass out flyers with Chaldean facts and pass Chaldean desserts to inform Spartans about the Chaldean culture.
“When I joined as a freshman, I was looking for a roommate and right away people gave me a number of girls I could contact,” Hamama said. “You feel at home here. Everyone is nice and wants to include you in everything.”
University of Michigan
Britanny Hamama is president of CASA at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She has been involved with this organization since she was a freshman in college.
“Being a part of something you can call home makes us appreciate our Chaldean culture and tradition more,” she said. “We live with each other, car pool, and understand that we have strict parents, that on the weekends we have to go home and meet at nanna’s house. Even when we’re home, we still hang out.”
Their chapter meets a minimum of once a month and their events alternate between something social such as a game night or dinner to community service such as making blankets for Help Iraq.
Some of their main events include:
• Live from Babylon: a fundraiser that’s open to the public where people gather, enjoy Arabic music, food, and they raise money for a good cause.
• Detroit Partnership Day, a nonprofit at the University of Michigan which exists to unite the people of Ann Arbor and Detroit. CASA members sign up in spring to do gardening work and paint homes in Detroit.
• Depending on need, members work with various Chaldean nonprofit organizations such as the Chaldean American Ladies of Charity (CALC) and Teachers Educating and Creating Hope (TEACH)
• Dinner gathering with a Chaldean priest where there’s a chance to exchange personal and conversations with the priest, such as religious life on campus.
Mentor groups for new students
“It’s nice to have a group I can go for help and I know they won’t steer me in the wrong direction,” said Britanny Hamama. “It puts my parents at ease.”
Ashley Robin, president of CASA of Oakland University in Rochester, was introduced to this organization when, in her high school senior year, she attended CASABLANCA, a yearly event that takes place in February. She immediately fell in love with it and decided to get as involved as possible so she could contribute to good causes.
“It was incredible to see Chaldeans come together and support such a great cause,” she said.
Their events include:
• Monthly meetings (in some occasions twice a month)
• United Community Family Services (CALC) Food Pantry. On Every 2nd and 4th Friday of every month from 11 am to 2 pm at CALC’s Headquarters in Troy. They prepare boxes of food, distribute to families in need, and if necessary, take it to their cars.
• Career Day where they bring professionals to share their expertise with the students (fall semester).
• Rebound for Relief (November) – team up with the Pistons at the Palace. Buy tickets for a large suite where students gather. All proceeds go to Student-to-Student Coalition.
“CASA is not limited to our community,” said Robin. “We have some non-Chaldeans as members. We love to bring in people to our organization and invite everyone to join.”
Wayne State University
Collin Konja is president of CASA at Wayne State University in Detroit. She says, “Our chapter aims to bring the community together on campus through various social activities as well as help our people back home who are going through difficult times.”
Some of their upcoming activities include:
• August 19 from 10 am – 12:45 pm; members will be at Holy Martyrs Church, helping with maintenance and cleaning
• August 29 from 11 am – 2pm– CASA will be at FestiFall, a mandatory event for incoming freshmen, which takes place at Wayne State University the day before classes begin. Students learn about the various organizations by stopping at their table, talking to members, and if they wish, signing up to join.
• September 28 (evening)– Bishop Francis will celebrate mass at Wayne State University
• September social event to welcome new members into the organization (Date to be determined)
• November – ice cream social with seminarians.
• November – volunteering at a soup kitchen where a seminarian will come in and give a talk about the situation of the Chaldeans in Iraq and how people here can help.
• December – annual CASA Christmas party with other chapters.
This year, they will be adding a mentorship program for their underclassmen in order to help them in their transition to college. They will also make a greater effort to help the Chaldeans back home by donating a portion of the proceeds from various events to a different charity each month.
“We are always up for suggestions to consider incorporating them into our chapter,” she said. “The organization is what you make of it. Without the contribution and dedication of each person, the group cannot grow.”
CASA chapters will be having their annual picnic in mid-August. You can find their news, an up-to-date list of their activities, and get reminders by staying connected with them through social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.