- Associated Press - Thursday, December 31, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Two Vermont students have made it their mission to help Syrians who remain in the war-torn country.

South Burlington High School students Lena Ginawi and Kiran Waqar (wah-CAR’) are rounding up blankets to send to Syria to help the people still there.

Vermont Public Radio reports (https://bit.ly/1YOjYi6) that Ginawi and Waqar are first-generation immigrants to the U.S. Their parents are from Egypt and Pakistan.

In addition to helping the Syrians, the girls - who are Muslim - wanted to combat some of the fear they’ve seen toward Muslims in general as a result of attacks by some Islamic extremists, Ginawi said.

“(We’re) showing that Muslims aren’t actually part of this ISIS group, and that we are actually trying to help,” she said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

When Gov. Peter Shumlin heard about their efforts, his office contacted businesses for help. He announced Thursday that a number of ski resorts and businesses have pledged support.

“At a time when the conversation about refugees often focuses on the worst of human emotions, Lena and Kiran are showing that the most powerful way to combat hatred and bigotry is with compassion,” said Shumlin, who has said Vermont should welcome Syrian refugees who have been thoroughly vetted before being allowed to settle in the United States.

“Both are truly admirable young people and we are so lucky to call them Vermonters,” he said.

The students are working with NuDay Syria, a New Hampshire-based group focused on humanitarian aid within Syria and in bordering areas.

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