Building community an ocean away

Cody Deitz, Features Editor

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   Balloons were sent up in the air on Monday afternoon in recognition of a family from England who suffered the loss of half their family in an explosion.

   In Leicester, England on Feb. 25, a Polish supermarket and the flat above were destroyed in the blast, leading to the death of five people. Among the losses were Mary, Shane and Sean Ragoobeer, a mother and two sons.

     “I did not personally know the family, but I knew of Shane and Sean through attending the same secondary school,” says Geoffery Gulzar, a current BU exchange student from Plymouth Marjon University studying Sports Coaching.

       Gulzar found out about the passing back home through Twitter, and among the list of victims’ faces were those he went to school with. When he saw the link to a GoFundMe page for the two family members who survived, father of the family Jose and the youngest son Scott he said, “I saw the links and mentioned it to my leadership professor, Steven Welch. We wanted to do something for them both as they had lost three members of their family in a heartbeat.”

       In response, Gulzar mentioned the explosion during his leadership class, and asked his peers to donate to the GoFundMe page and share it on their social media platforms. As a class, they decided that they could do more than just sharing a link. They decided to hold an event on campus and create a support video for the families of the five victims.

     On Monday, students gathered on the quad and were able to write prayers and support messages on BU T-shirts that would be sent to English Martyrs, the high school Gulzar and some of the victims attended. Along with that, American candy will be sent to the senior students to represent Scott, as well as Scott’s tutor group.

      The video contained footage of the gathering of students signing shirts, making signs and holding balloons. “The main message of the video is to show everyone in Leicester that we are thinking of them at this time, but the main focus is on the five victims,” says Gulzar.

       The video features the crowd of BU students saying, “Leicester, stay strong,” a direct initiative rooted in letting the community all the way across the Atlantic that BU is with them during this unimaginably tough time. Balloons that students were holding were also released into the blue Bloomsburg sky, a symbol for the lives lost in the explosion.

       Within 24 hours of the video’s posting on Facebook, it was shared 200 times and watched 4k times. In eight days, the GoFundMe page has raised over $14,000 for a goal of about $15,000, has been shared 3k times, and is trending on the famous crowdfunding website, thereby accumulating a massive online reach.

     “The students here at Bloomsburg University have supported me massively and it has been uplifting for me to see, and together we are aiming to help everyone in Leicester that has been affected by this tragedy,” says Gulzar.