Row2Syria: How One Group of Rowers in Germany is Making a Difference for Syrian Refugees

The issues facing refugees across Europe are staggering. Political unrest and war have driven hundreds of thousands from their homes, seeking safety for themselves and for their families. That's why this small group of student rowers at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany is trying to make a big difference.

"As a team, we wanted to do something more," says former CRI rower and current Jacobs University Bremen student Vincent Jerosch-Herold, "and have a real impact that would hopefully get people's attention, and maybe inspire them to contribute to their own community in some way, in helping refugees become adapted to living in a new country." So, the Row2Syria project was born.

The plan? On November 14th, 2015 Jacobs University Bremen rowers will be embarking on a 24-hour erg marathon, with the goal being to cover 3,078 kilometers—the distance from Bremen to Damascus. The goals for the charity donations are twofold: first, to aid local refugees in the area of Bremen, and second (should the Row2Syria team be able to raise enough money) to help fund aid projects for refugees in Germany at the national level. "We want to help everyone, but we have to be realistic, so the money is limited to Germany right now," explains Jerosch-Herold. "Obviously, if other rowing clubs in other countries like say France, or England wanted to have a similar effort, we would love it if they could do a similar style of event. We're trying to have as big of an impact as possible, so if we can inspire others in the rowing community to participate or even start their own event, then that would be fantastic."

On the team at Jacobs University Bremen is Kareem Al Nahas—a student athlete who grew up in Syria, and moved to Germany in 2012. In other words, the team has a personal connection to the conflict, and the cause—that's why these students, many of whom have jobs in addition to their studies and their commitment to rowing, are taking on the extra work.

While the event will be hosted in Bremen, there are ways to get involved even if you're on the other side of the world.

First, there are already many people who have signed up to do a 'Solidarity Erg,' where rowers anywhere can do an erg piece during the 24-hour span of the event, submit their meters, and see them on a global heat map. Also, the Row2Syria team have started what they are calling a rowing version of the ALS ice-bucket challenge, with a rowing twist: the challenge is to row 100m as fast as you can, and then nominate up to three friends to row 100m as fast as they can—a model that has a competitive edge that many rowers will no doubt appreciate.

"The idea is that we are trying to raise awareness about the issues facing refugees for the entire rowing community, not just here in Bremen," Jerosch-Herold says. So, whom did he challenge? Here's what he posted to Facebook:
"I accept the challenge to do a 100-meter sprint. I will join from Bremen on the 14th and 15th of November and I am challenging Joseph Hajjar and the Braća Sinković [the Sinkovic Brothers] to beat my time of 16.2 seconds and to join me on the erg on 14th and 15th of November during the 24h global ergathon!"
The Sinkovic Brothers are currently in the midst of a training camp, but have expressed their interest in getting involved. And, according to Jerosch-Herold, Row2Syria has received kit directly from the Deutschland Achter to distribute as prizes for those who log the most meters during the event, as well as rowing gear to wear during competition from New Wave.

You can learn more, donate, and follow the event live via the official website of Row2Syria, and keep an eye on their Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram feed for updates. Join their efforts from anywhere in the world by challenging your friends to a 100m erg, or just jamming through a steady state on November 14th. The rowing community is tight knit and global—your hard work can make a real difference in people's lives.


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