The alumnus of UDT went overseas in 2015 to aid with the Syrian refugee crisis. This led to student relief training for disaster relief. This is the first Muslim training program partnering with the Red Cross. This enables attendees to earn valid certifications for their training. Abdullah Shawky is the coordinator for the regional United States programs for Islamic Relief USA. In 2009 he graduated from UTD and began working in the United States regarding disaster relief efforts including the 2012 Lancaster tornado that devastated Texas.
Abdullah Shawky was unprepared for the mass suffering apparent among the refugees during his deployment to Greece to assist with the crises. As of 2017 there were approximately 22.5 million refugees. The United Nations Refugee Agency stated 5.5 million came from Syria. There has never been a disaster in the United States anywhere near what occurred in Greece. Greece does not have many resources, money or support.
Abdullah Shawky was dispatched with IRUSA volunteers in October of 2015 when the crisis was at its peak. They worked on Lesvos island. This is roughly an hour by plane from mainland Greece. They assisted with translating the language and placed the refugees from the boats onto buses, so they could be taken somewhere safe. The group saw 300 refugees the day they arrived. After two weeks this number increased to 7,000 per day. By the end of the month the group had seen 30,000 refugees.
IRUSA is an organization with a mission to provide relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion. It works to empower individuals in their communities and give them a voice in the world. The organization’s board of directors include Mohamed Attawia, Hamadi Bengabsia and Khaled Lamada.
Abdullah Shawky was hit hard when a critically ill baby arrived on one of the boats. Despite the help of a local clinic the baby died. He was six or eight months old and his name was Omar. His mother was a nineteen-year-old Syrian refugee. This was the first time they had seen death up close. This is one of many reasons Islamic Relief at UTD is coordinating events on campus. They want to feed the homeless, train individuals in disaster relief and find volunteers to help in the refugee crisis overseas.
The secretary of the IRUTD is Umar Khalid. He took part in coordinating the event. He started the program in 2017 although most of the costs were covered by Islamic Relief. Abdullah Shawky trained the attendants and focuses on case work, housing and disaster assessment. Additional topics included the distribution of clothing and food, psychological first aid, first aid, constructing temporary shelters and CPR. Their goal is to have fully trained volunteers with a good understanding of disaster relief.