Conscious party: Free Planet Radio to perform at Hadaya Toys’ fundraiser for Syrian refugee children

BORDERING CHAOS: Hadaya Toys founders Vanessa Bell and Jennifer MacDonald, pictured, recently traveled to a refugee camp on the border of Syria, where they met a 6-year-old Shaima. The youth arrived in Lebanon with her mother and siblings after her father was killed in Syria. Bell says Shaima "was especially cute, fearless and adorable. She followed us everywhere and just wanted to be carried and held much of the time." Photo courtesy of Hadaya Toys

WHAT: A candlelight vigil fundraiser for the Beiti orphanage in Turkey

WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 6, from 6-8 p.m.

WHERE: Jubilee Community Church

WHY: Although many organizations are working to mitigate the tumultuous conditions of Syrian refugees, few specifically address the needs of children, according to photographer and artist Vanessa Bell, co-founder of nonprofit Hadaya Toys. Her organization — launched with filmmaker and teacher Jennifer MacDonald after a successful crowdfunding campaign about a year ago — aims to do just that by delivering quality books, toys and art supplies to displaced youth.

“We believe this lost generation deserves opportunities to experience moments of joy and fun and that these moments are invaluable to a child’s overall health, development and well-being,” Bell says, noting that the creative stimulation is doubly important for the many kids not enrolled in school.

To that end, Bell and MacDonald are holding a candlelight vigil and fundraiser for the refugees, with proceeds specifically benefiting the Beiti orphanage in Turkey. There, youths have lost one or both parents to war.

The evening will feature world music by Asheville’s Free Planet Radio plus other musical guests; spoken word and several short video presentations depicting previous aid trips taken by Hadaya’s founders; a silent auction of gift cards to local businesses; and Habibi baklava, Roots hummus and other refreshments.

Bell says that although Hadaya’s reach has thus far been modest, its impact has been significant, “as evidenced by over 600 smiling faces when we delivered toys, books and art supplies to four camps on the border of Lebanon and Syria this summer.”

Tickets to the fundraiser event are $10 each, available at the door or at Malaprop’s Café and Bookstore in advance. Hadaya avoids accepting pre-purchased toys (to mitigate arguments and disappointment and ensure durability), though the nonprofit does accept soccer balls. Visit for more information.


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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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