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Our Effort Started from Nothing, Now Look What's Happened

One person can make a difference.

Ben Levaton, Paris
Ben Levaton, Paris
Ben Levaton, Paris

Written by Twila Bird

Photography by Christophe Mortier

In 2015, Ben Levaton, a student at the American School of Paris,found himself on the forefront of the refugee crisis in France. He and his mother, Diane Levaton, launched a school service club, which they titled “Compassion Without Borders.” In the past three years, they have been supplying food, tents, sleeping bags, coats, shoes, backpacks filled with toiletries, and other necessities to refugees. The community of people associated with the American School of Paris gathers behind the students and pushes them forward by donating tenfold whenever the club posts a “needs list.”

When our student group, Compassion Without Borders, first began serving the refugees on a personal, one-on-one basis, we were hesitant and a little bit afraid. But we got over that and were able to really make a difference. We handed out sandwiches and personal supplies. I felt good about what we were doing, and I know the others felt that way, too.

Refugee support eventually grew beyond our school community. Other individuals and organizations in Paris soon helped in the humanitarian effort. Even the famous French cooking school, Cordon Bleau, found a way to help. They donated hundreds of cakes produced by student chefs (which normally get thrown away) to Compassion Without Borders. Sales of Cordon Bleau’s throw-away cakes raised thousands of dollars to help purchase supplies for refugees.

There are opportunities to help refugees all around the world right now. One person can make a difference. One person begins, then others join in and assist. Our effort started from nothing—just look what has happened! We’ve been able to help thousands of refugees living here.

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