Manitoba

University students create health packs for Syrian refugees in Manitoba

First year medical and dental students at the University of Manitoba are collaborating to help address the health and oral hygiene needs of Syrian refugees new to the province.

Medical and dental students at University of Manitoba team-up to address needs of Syrian newcomers

First year dentistry student Israa Elgazzar (left) and medical students Émilie Chartier (middle) and Rami Elzayat (right), are creating health packs to distribute to Syrian refugees at the end of February. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

First year medical and dental students at the University of Manitoba are collaborating to help address the health and oral hygiene needs of Syrian refugees new to the province.

Israa Elgazzar, a dentistry student and her fiancé Rami Elzayat, a medical student, are among the students helping create health packs for families.

As of Tuesday, they have only created one prototype but the students plan to handout between 100 and 150 health packs to refugees by the end of February. 

"Personally I'm honoured," said Elgazzar. "I'm not doing someone a favour by doing this. It's my responsibility as a health care provider, as part of a health care team, to contribute in this way," she said.

Each health pack will include:

  • Thermometer.
  • Bandages and ointment.
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste.
  • Dental floss.
  • Hot and cold packs.
  • Arabic brochures and pamphlets about oral health and Manitoba's health care system.

Elzayat, who is half-Syrian, said like his fiancée he felt a personal responsibility to help the newcomers, noting medical students helped refugees from Vietnam in the 1970s.

"We felt like we needed to do something as a class. Historically the college of medicine, the medical students, they always did their part when a medical crisis hit," he said.

Each health pack will provide enough supplies for an entire family. They cost about $20 each to put together, he said. The students were able to keep costs down by negotiating sponsorships.

Each health pack includes toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as first aid supplies. Between 100 and 150 family-size kits will be delivered to refugees, free of charge. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)
A gofundme page has been established to fund the rest of the cost, said Elzayat. Organizers plan to include the name of the donor on each health pack so families know who helped pay for the supplies.

Elzayat said he is in contact with community groups in Manitoba like the Syrian Assembly of Manitoba and the Islamic Social Services Association to organize a way of getting the health packs to the families in need later this month.

"It's amazing to see people come together to help a cause, " added Elzayat.

"To see people support one another and support newcomers into the community."

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