Zack Bazzi, a student in the Executive Master’s in Emergency and Disaster Management program at the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies and a U.S. Army veteran, recently re-visited the war-torn area in Iraq where he served and decided to offer his help to the thousands of refugee children struggling there.
Along with Scott Quilty and Patrick Hu, two friends and fellow veterans, Bazzi started a charity initiative called TentEd that delivers critical school supplies and other assistance to displaced Syrian refugee children.
When not working on his nonprofit, Bazzi will be pursuing his master’s degree along with 20 other students who have a military background. Of the 40 total students in the 2014-5 EDM cohort, 13 are veterans, four are active duty and four are reservists. Representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, these graduate students highlight the fact that Georgetown University was recently chosen as the #1 school for veterans according to US News & World Report.
Find out more about Bazzi’s new undertaking as well as his decision to enroll in Georgetown’s year-long graduate program.
Why did you choose the EDM program?
Georgetown’s EDM program is an ideal fit with my interests and my professional experience in the military and nonprofit sector. It’s no surprise that many military veterans enter this line of work. In many ways, the sense of purpose and mission that one feels in uniform translates well to the field of emergency and disaster management. The program that Georgetown University is offering is one of the best in the country, attracting diverse individuals from all types of backgrounds – and that was important to me.
Do you like your classes so far?
So far the classes have been challenging, sort-of like drinking from a fire hose, as the expression goes. But along with that challenge comes the opportunity to learn a great deal – not just from the instructors, who are leaders in their fields, but just as importantly, from fellow students. Many of my peers are accomplished mid-career professionals who have accumulated vast skills and experience over the years. Being able to take advantage of all that knowledge is one of
the more appealing aspects of the program.
How did you come up with the idea for TentEd?
I wrote an article for a news site (by veterans and for veterans) called Task & Purpose. In the article, I describe a return trip to Iraq 10 years after serving there and how it gave me the opportunity to learn more about the people and culture. After leaving, I wanted to stay involved. I recalled the difficulties at the refugee camps: lack of supplies for students and teachers, kids going to school with ill-fitting shoes and so forth. I saw tangible things that could be improved and TentEd was born.
What are the next steps for you and TentEd?
School is priority number one, of course. However, we do have plans to continue developing TentEd and slowly enhance our capacity to support the education of refugees in the Middle East. Ultimately, the intent is to keep it a small-focused and effective project.
It’s important for people to understand that, whether we like it or not, we are part of an interconnected global community, and so what happens abroad often has domestic consequences. To borrow from a previous interview I did with ABC News, “If the only time people in the Middle East deal with America is through the apparatus of government, we’re in trouble. Such institutional relationships run shallow and do little to prevent conflict in times of distress between states. It’s the raw people-to-people interactions that fuel authentic understanding and cooperation across borders, and ultimately, reduce the chances of armed conflict.”
How can others get involved with TentEd?
Donate! Even a small contribution can make a big difference. Keep in mind that a dollar in Iraq makes a lot more impact than a dollar stateside. And of course, people can spread the word about our work and reach out to us with good ideas! We’re always open to innovative ways to achieving even more impact with our dollars.
TentEd donation link on Epic USA
ABC News story
Task & Purpose story (written by Zack Bazzi)
Huffington Post interview