Broths for a Better World provides refugee education with a tasty twist

For members of Refugee Action (RefAct), a bowl of soup is more than just delicious comfort food. It also represents an opportunity to educate oneself about refugee crises around the world.

Last Saturday, RefAct hosted their annual Broths for a Better World event at College Hill Presbyterian Church, located right off campus. Attendees had the chance to take home soups whose recipes are inspired by the cuisines of five different countries: Ethiopia, Lebanon, Mexico, Syria and Georgia. In a presentation, RefAct members explained details about the refugee crises in each of these regions.

“We’re hoping [attendees] learn about some refugee issues that they weren’t previously aware of or aren’t covered often in the media,” Susanna Hontz ‘24, chair of the RefAct’s Events and Outreach branch, said.

For Anna Boggess ‘23, president of Events and Outreach, the fact that the presentation involves taking home soups to enjoy rather than just watching a presentation is important to the event’s success.

“Being able to take home something that is traditionally served in countries that a lot of refugees come from, I think is extremely important, because people feel way more connected to the refugee crisis and feel more involved as well,” Boggess said.

In addition to learning more about refugee crises in these five regions, attendees also got to learn about what RefAct does as an organization.

According to their website, RefAct “strives to raise awareness of and improve the lives of refugees from a variety of backgrounds in the Lehigh Valley and beyond.” RefAct is broken down into two sub-categories: the Events and Outreach branch hosts events with the purpose of education and fundraising, and the Resettlement branch directly sponsors families with refugee status.

RefAct has been hosting Broths for a Better World ever since it became a student organization nearly five years ago on April 28, 2017. However, the group was unable to host Broths for a Better World last spring due to the pandemic.

Hontz said that Broths for a Better World is RefAct’s biggest fundraising event. During the event, RefAct invited attendees to donate money to the organization. They also sold postcards featuring photography from countries experiencing refugee crises.

Additionally, attendees had the opportunity to walk around to view artwork made by people living at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. These art pieces were originally exhibited in London and then auctioned off with the proceeds going to The Hope Project, an organization that helps refugees arriving in Lesbos.

Boggess said that in past years, Broths for a Better World has sometimes featured performances or outside speakers. However, this year, RefAct wanted their presentation to focus on the different regions’ soups, as well as RefAct’s partnership with the Bethany Christian Services (BCS) resettlement agency. Representatives from BCS spoke at Broths for a Better World about their work resettling refugees in the region.

In addition to fundraising and education, Broths for a Better World is also about recruitment.

“When people hear about refugee crises, they think it’s something outside of their reach…It’s very, very easy to help…We offer direct help to refugee families,” President of Resettlement Fatma Mahmoudi ‘22 said.

“You don’t have to look up these international organizations or be confused about what sources to trust, because we’re right here, and you can just help us,” Mahmoudi continued.

Whether you’re looking at the Syrian red lentil soup (Boggess’ favorite) or the Georgian Kharcho soup (Mahmoudi’s favorite), Broths for a Better World and RefAct show that everyone can make a difference — one spoonful at a time.