ISOW hosts Middle Eastern cultural evening

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Image by Kash Patel

On Nov. 14 from 6-9:30 p.m, International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) hosted a Middle Eastern Cultural Evening at the Senate and Board Chamber.

The event, which was free to attend, was held to encourage students to celebrate and participate in Middle Eastern culture.

“The scholars help us plan it, just to help us show Laurier what their culture is about. So there’s food and dancing and music, and they kind of get to share a part of their home with us here,” said Maya Griffith, director of events and education for ISOW.

Founded in 2014, ISOW is a student-funded organization that grants scholarships to international students, known as “scholars,” who are living in conflict zones. Every semester, Laurier students pay an ancillary fee of $4 that helps support their scholarships.

Since the club’s conception, ISOW has supported over 16 students, with the first ISOW scholar graduating in 2017.

“What this night is about is ISOW kind of showing the Laurier community who they’re accepting into their community, so it’s kind of just a little culture exchange,”Griffith said.

The evening commenced with a buffet, free of charge for all attendees. Various Middle Eastern dishes were prepared, such as baked kibbeh, makloubeh, hummus, baba ganoush, muhammarah, lentil soup, fatoush, tabouli, baklava and baboosa as well as other specialty dishes.

The food was prepared by ISOW scholars, student leaders and Meg Brockett, a Master’s student at Laurier and wife to Dr. Brockett, head teacher for ISOW, explained Griffith.

“Everything that we have here was actually cooked by us downstairs in Veritas…so the scholars and the members sort of just helped cook everything,”Griffith said.

Later in the evening, attendees were able to get henna tattoos — a form of decorative body art that uses dye from henna trees.

Arabic calligraphy and an Arabic board game called “tavlav,” were also included in the event.

“This is my first year coming to the event and I happen to be planning it, but the feedback I’ve gotten so far is that the food is really good and that the henna was really popular,” Griffith said.

Nearing the end of the night, the event moved into the Senate and Board chamber for the Dabke dance performance.

Dabke is a folk dance specific to the Arabic Levant region that combines circle and line dancing, and is performed at weddings as well as other celebrations.

At the end of the dance, which featured some of ISOW’s scholars and the Levant Dabke Group of KW, audience members were invited to participate and do a Dabke dance together.   

Since 2014, ISOW has successfully partnered with Daughters for Life and Jusoor Syria, who help fund their scholarships.

This year, ISOW secured a one-time partnership with the Iraqi and Syrian Student Project and welcomed their first male scholar to Laurier.

“I feel like a lot of the times, people just have one idea of who the scholars are who we support. When you say you’re bringing in someone from a country of conflict, you (might) just picture sadness and disparity, but they have a lot of amazing parts of their culture that we don’t get to see everyday. So, just teaching and learning from them is something that all Laurier students can appreciate,” Griffith said.

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