Nashoba Valley Students Construct Bed for Local Syrian Refugee Family
June 18, 2018
By Chris Lisinkski
CONCORD -- Baraa Alloh perched at the edge of his bed, peered down at his father, Mohammed, and, with the kind of unyielding energy that comes naturally to 3-year-olds like himself, flung himself down the slide only to turn around and run back up it.
The slide, an immediate source of delight for Baraa, is part of a new bed he received Thursday, hand-delivered to the Alloh family's new home by the Nashoba Valley Technical High School students who built it. While participating in a multi-school competition known as the Eco-Carpentry Challenge, the students wanted to construct something that would help someone in the community. So they turned their attention to the Allohs.
The family fled violence in their native Syria and came to the United States in 2016. They are in the process of moving from Carlisle into a more comfortable home in Concord, but they needed a bed for Baraa, their youngest son. When the trio of Nashoba Tech sophomores -- Jonathan Suero and Luke Boucher of Pepperell and Tyler Alden of Chelmsford -- learned of the situation, they knew exactly what their project would be.
"They wanted to try and find a little more of a philanthropic piece to it rather than just making something for the sake of making it," said Jonathan Pryor, a carpentry instructor at Nashoba Tech. "We knew that we could make a difference right in our own community."
The students, under Pryor's supervision, spent more than three months planning and constructing a bed to top all beds using recycled materials, as the challenge requires.
They did not stop at a mattress and a frame, however: their design lofted the bed, allowing space underneath it for a desk and a chair. The students proposed attaching a slide and a miniature basketball hoop, complete with a light-up scoreboard.
"We thought of the things we would want as younger kids," Boucher said. "We embraced our inner kids."
The group showcased their final product at the May 11 challenge in Boston, where Pryor said judges were impressed with their thoughtfulness and sense of charity. They won first place, which carried with it a $2,000 prize for Nashoba Tech, but the students successfully petitioned the school to donate the money to the Alloh family instead.
That decision, Pryor said, came entirely from the students themselves.
"It completely caught me off guard," he said. "$2,000 is a pretty significant amount of money, and for them to be selfless and not go, 'What can we get for us?' or 'Can we go out and spend it on this?' -- it was phenomenal."
On Thursday, a month after the competition, the group drove the bed out to the Alloh family's new Concord home. They spent more than an hour dismantling their work and reconstructing it in what will be Baraa's bedroom with community members who supported the family and local media watching.
The Allohs had an intense journey to get to where they are today. Mohammed, his wife, Heba and their older children, Eman, Anas and Gaber, left Syria amid the country's brutal civil war. They spent five years in a refugee camp in Jordan, where the youngest children, Cidra, 5, and Baraa, 3, were born.
They came to the United States in late 2016, settling first in Lowell before a Carlisle couple, Sean Kavanagh and Donna Vaillancourt, invited them into their home. The Allohs lived with the couple for a few months, then in another house, and will soon move full time to a Concord neighborhood where their kids can play with families next door.
Mohammed said he was "very surprised" by the generosity from the community and from Nashoba Tech.
"This new bed is very, very nice," he said. "My children are very happy about this."
And it was apparent Thursday how excited Baraa and Cidra were. Before the team had even finished reconstructing the bed, Cidra walked into the room, beaming and carrying the sheets that would eventually be used. Baraa seemed so enamored by the slide -- which ends less than a foot before the wall -- that Pryor joked he would have to teach his students how to fix drywall and bring them back.
As the students walked back to their truck, the bed built and their goodbyes said, the sound of a small basketball thumping against the floor already echoed out from Baraa's open window.