By Sara Salimi
Rommy’s Charitable Organization (RCO) held its biggest fundraiser Saturday at the Harmony Hall Community Center in Columbia, Maryland. The event featured 500 hand-made gift baskets with holidays specials, coffee and tea, and various chocolate themed accessories. Other stations run by RCO volunteers who did henna, face painting and ran a book fair.
RCO has a vision for the children and families it supports. The team’s mission statement reads, “We hold your hands, you hold the future.”
The non-profit organization was founded on Dec. 6, 2016, on what would have been Rommy Warrak’s 23rd birthday. He passed away on August 19, 2016, in a motor vehicle accident. Rommy was a UMD alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in history.
Lena Warrak, Rommy’s sister and a senior public health science and Spanish major at UMD, said she and her mother, Suzan Abdo, began RCO as a way to keep Rommy’s legacy alive. “He was all about kids and education, so we combined his interests and decided to help orphans and underprivileged children in Jordan who have fled from the war in Syria,” she said.
Mahsa Ameri, a senior public health sciences major, said the event made her appreciate what she has. “A lot of the things we take for granted, while Syrian kids have a really difficult time getting — from food and education to just a place to live,” she said.
Since its inception, RCO has been providing 55 Syrian orphans and refugees two meals a day, space heaters for their homes, heavy winter jackets and health check-ups. It also sponsors six students to get through college and helps 20 families accommodate their monthly necessities. The team prepared 5,000 meals for the refugee families during Ramadan, the month in which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.
RCO also runs educational camps and tournaments which include music and bonding activities for children. Hedyeh Javaheri, a UMD Alumnus who works with student refugees, said the organization is addressing a vital need in underprivileged communities. “I think it’s great that the organization is basically funding better living conditions for these kids,” she said.
In 2019, the team plans to increase the number of children they support to 100 and add more teachers, social workers and caretakers. RCO’s funds come from member donations and the education funds set aside for Rommy. All contributions go toward caring for the orphans, children, students and families of RCO.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Sara Salimi/Bloc Reporter.
Sara Salimi is a senior multiplatform journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.