Because every child has the right to education!
We envision a time where the innocents are supported and empowered, where families are strengthened, environment and tradition are preserved, and where development brings opportunity. In our endeavor to enable these processes, we plan to meet the innocents in their places of refuge, listen to their voices that have been muted by conflict, then authentically reproduce and amplify them because no child should be forgotten and every story must be heard.
The UNHCR estimates that there are 7 million IDPs who have been directly impacted by the conflict within Syria’s borders and an additional 4 million refugees in neighboring countries. About half of these refugees are children, representing what is now being called “The Lost Generation.” Clearly the children of Syria are the innocents whose voices have been muted by the sounds of bombs and tank shelling. The conflict has robbed the children of Syria of their childhood, their homes, their schools, their friends and in many cases, their families.
Based on interviews we conducted with dozens of refugee children on the Syrian-Turkish border, we learned much about the daily struggle of Syrian refugees, especially the most vulnerable among them. One of the main facts we observed is that refugee children are often unable to attend school to continue their education, even at the primary level. Instead, they are forced to work for long hours standing on their feet, carrying heavy boxes, or working behind sewing machines earning less than 5 dollars–minimum wage in USA is 7.75 per hour–for a workday that can last up to 12 hours. The goal of our project is to raise awareness about this critical issue and about the need for those children to go back to school as soon as possible in fulfillment of their basic right to education. We hope to improve their living conditions and help protect children from exploitation and child labor through crisis education programs.
These refugee children are Syria’s future leaders, but the fear, trauma and physical injuries from which they continue to suffer constitute a huge part of the human suffering of the Syrian people. Only 100,000 children of the documented refugees have been able to continue their education, and only 1/5 of them have received counseling. Through a network of activists on the ground, we have been able to meet and develop intimate relationships with many children and their families. Over the next 12 months, we are planning multiple trips to the Syrian-Turkish border. During our travels, we will continue to build on the existing relationships we have already as well as build new ones.
What we see happening in Syria is a tragic and unique phenomenon, its impact will be globally felt for decades to come, especially when no action is being taken to bring the conflict to an end. Our project aims to show support and bring back some pride to those that have lost everything. People have stories they want to tell, children are lost but still have dreams and aspirations they want to share, and we want to give them a space from which they can speak and be empowered through education in a safe space like the classroom typically provides. This will be important for the success of democracy in Syria, and the region that surrounds that torn country.
More on this project to come soon.