Western media and many politicians have painted Syrians broadly in a negative light, associating them with terrorism and extremist ideology, but a group of Syrian Americans just demonstrated how wrong that stereotype actually is.
At the 6th annual Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) National Conference, attendants raised nearly $3 million dollars in the course of just one hour for the humanitarian work done by the society's foundation in Syria and other neighboring countries. Some donors even gave their cars and gold jewelry, according to people at the event.
"They were wealthy, successful doctors and engineers, people who have lived in this country for decades. One man donated his car, a 7-series BMW. Women spontaneously sent their 24-carat gold bracelets up for auction. There were several single donations of $100,000, many of them anonymous," Kelly McEvers, who attended the conference, said on Facebook.
"These people came to this country to learn, to work, to prosper, and to then give back. This is America. Extreme vet that, I dare you," she said, referencing U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial "Muslim ban", which targeted immigrants and refugees from seven countries, including Syria.
SAMS Foundation is a non-profit, non-political, medical and humanitarian relief organization that is working to alleviate suffering and save lives. A big part of its efforts are focused on war-torn Syria and other neighboring countries.
In 2016 alone, the organization treated three million Syrians through its efforts. This is more than any organization besides the World Health Organization.
Held in Los Angeles, California, from Feb. 17 to 19, the conference discussed attacks on hospitals and medical facilities in Syria, anti-refugee hysteria, political barriers to medical work and global relief efforts.
CNN Senior International Correspondent Arwa Damon spoke at the conference, saying she wanted to personally thank the organization for the work it is doing.
"I came here because I wanted this platform to truly thank SAMS for what it is you're doing. You have all of us in awe," Damon said, talking about how she has personally seen the organization's efforts in Syria.
"We are all very aware of the reality that exists - the world needs humanitarian orgs, now more than ever," she said.