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where academic investigation +
christian faith +
service to others unite
04/22/2014 | Created by Darla Martin Tucker

Dirty walls of sparse rooms are scarred with peeling, multi-colored paint, and in one residence, a small rusting sink connected to an indoor water line forms a tiny corner kitchen.

La Sierra University students Kennya Palacios, left, and Sarah Lancaster model dresses from the “Whimsical Odyssey” line designed by fellow students Wendy Diaz and Kristine Osuna for the REVO fundraising fashion show. (Photo by W. Diaz, K. Osuna)
Caitlin Cuenca and Andrew Pedersen pose with Syrian refugee children in Jordan.
A portion of an apartment housing Syrian refugees.
Syrian children have fun with photographer Andrew Pedersen, while Caitlin Cuenca reads to a child in the background.

These are the living quarters of Syrian refugees who fled the large camps, whose apartments in Jordan two La Sierra University students visited last Christmas. With the assistance of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency’s Jordan operation, Caitlin Cuenca and Andrew Pedersen delivered winter coats collected at La Sierra and took note of the desperate need for clothes, medical care and food.

Their journey was part of a yearlong aid campaign initiated by Cuenca last fall called Project: Syria, an effort that has involved the winter coat drive and more than $2,000 raised through a February benefit concert by Christian band, The Brilliance. The campaign will culminate Sun., April 27 with an annual benefit fashion show and music concert at La Sierra University called REVO with proceeds aiding the refugees.

The event will be held at La Sierra’s Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business in the Troesh Conference Center beginning at 5 p.m. General admission is $10. Fashion show first row seating is $35, and second row seating is $30. Music will be performed by Katrina and Kayla Niere opening for vocalist/pianist Sunn St. Claire.

The fashion show will consist of eight clothing lines created by La Sierra students. The designers make their fashions from scratch or re-work and re-design finished outfits. Some lines have multiple designers. Wendy Diaz and Kristine Osuna are working together on an eight-piece series they call “Whimsical Odyssey.” The designs invoke a fairy tale and include elements of mermaids, a phoenix, and elves. The outfits incorporate tulle and shiny material, some jersey and cotton in dark green, black, red, blue with glitter and embellishments such as elf ears and sea shells.

The designers are using eight student models for the line, one for each outfit. As of the second week of April they were two-thirds done with their pieces and busily coming up with styles for the models’ hair and makeup. “We have so many ideas,” Osuna said.

“I’ve always been inspired by REVO,” said Diaz, a biomed major and Hesperia resident with a self-described artsy side. “This year it’s really inspiring to see what they’re trying to do.” She arrived at La Sierra with a background in outreach and creativity. She helped fund raise for her church, A Voice in the Desert, and designed costumes for Easter and Christmas plays. Diaz says she chose La Sierra because of its active role in community and international service.

Osuna has helped plan La Sierra REVO events that past two years. “Fund raising and helping others is part of my life,” said the history and pre-law major. Osuna, a native Oregonian, participated in a hunger campaign for Future Farmers of America during high school that involved picking corn to feed 16,000 people.

REVO is a grassroots movement that began in Hawaii. It raises money for and awareness of social injustice and need through fashion, art and music events benefitting charitable efforts aimed at alleviating suffering. REVO’s motto is “start a revolution, start with love.” Revolution is defined as a fundamental change and derives from the Latin word “revolutio” which means “a turn around.”

La Sierra University has held REVO fund raising fashion and music events the past four years with the first REVO held in 2010. Thus far students have designed a total 78 outfits for REVO shows that have raised $68,000 all together for orphans in Rwanda, an anti-human trafficking organization in Washington, D.C., a children’s school in Cambodia, and outreach missions in Peru.

Cuenca organized Project: Syria after researching the atrocities suffered by tens of thousands of Syrians forced to flee their homes in the face of civil war. Since the outbreak of war in 2011, about 2.5 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries with about 600,000 registered in Jordan as of February, according to the Syrian Refugees, a project of the Migration Policy Centre of the European University Institute. More than 80,000 are housed in tents in the Jordanian refugee camp Za’atri set up in 2012, the second largest refugee camp in the world.

“I wanted to start a year-long project for the campus to engage in,” said Cuenca, a senior bio-health science major and religious vice president for the Student Association of La Sierra University. The project also ties in with her career goals of becoming a missionary dentist, and with her beliefs that God calls everyone to some form of service. “This year at least, the refugees happen to be mine,” she said.

At the end of the school year, Cuenca will mail a check for the funds raised to aid ADRA’s Jordan operation. ADRA is an international humanitarian aid organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In Jordan it is striving to help refugee families who have left the massive United Nations camps and are struggling to pay rent, buy food, clothes and medicine on roughly $35 a month per individual provided through the U.N.

“A lot of families were saying they were behind on their rent and they can’t pay for medicine for their kids,” Pedersen said.

“We offer Syrian as well as poor Jordanian locals any help and relief available,” said ADRA representative Ramzi Remond. “But the greatest need is and might always stay, paying the hefty monthly rent for most Syrian families who took refuge in Jordan.”

For further information about the REVO fashion show and music event visit or the REVO Facebook page at

For a related story on Project: Syria, go to