Updates from Jordan: New School Year, New Updates!

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Dear Supporters,

Happy October! The TSF team is back from an extremely productive trip in Jordan with tons of updates to share!  Read on to learn more.

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New School Year, New Backpacks!

The new school year started in the beginning of September and our students are excited to be back in the classroom! This September, TSF made sure that nearly 500 children had new backpacks filled with essential school supplies to start the year off right. 

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Teacher Prep

We held an all-staff meeting at The Azraq School to discuss teaching methods, our new employee handbook and updated contracts. TSF is rolling out new evaluation models this semester, and the teachers are working on establishing committees, student clubs and more.

 

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Meetings With Ministries

We're committed to supporting the Jordanian Government's official Refugee Response Plan by ensuring that our programs align with Jordan's key priorities and support host communities. Our team recently spent time with the Ministry of Social Development where we hope to create long-lasting relationships with officials working in our field!

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Ongoing Basic Needs Programming

TSF continues our regular work of distributing essential items like food and hygiene products. In September alone, we provided 550 food and hygiene packages to families across Northern Jordan through our partnership with The Annenberg Foundation. We're now gearing up for winter and will be organizing distributions of blankets, heater and warm winter clothes.

 

Collaborating With Public Schools

Jordan is making immense strides to help Syrian children enroll in formal education. In fact, today, nearly all of the students at The Azraq School also attend public school in the afternoons as part of the newly established second-shift system. But there is much work to be done. The second shift is only two hours per day and we know that our students need so much more. That's why we've been collaborating with the local school principal to assess our students' strengths, weaknesses, and places where we can continue to fill in any gaps through The Syria Fund's academic enhancement programs.

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Spending Time With The Community

The last month was filled with meetings, contracts, form creations and more. We are thrilled to be starting the new school year off on the right foot and that meant a lot of work! But we made sure to spend quality time with the families we serve as well. Spending time with our community, sharing meals and swapping stories is an essential part of what we do and our relationships get stronger by the day! The families we serve have lost so much over the last 6 years, but they find the strength to carry on through community and family bonds. In that, we find so much hope for the future! 

The end of the year is rapidly approaching and we hope that you'll consider supporting The Syria Fund as part of your end-of-year giving! We're expanding our education programs and continuing our essential basic needs distributions. As always, we're committed to keeping overhead as low as possible to ensure that your donations go exactly where you intend! Please consider making a donation today!

With gratitude,
The Syria Fund team

Updates From The Ground -- Donations In Action!

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Dear Supporters,

Eid Mubarek and Happy Labor Day Weekend! We can't believe how quickly the summer went by.

Our summer program at The Azraq School just wrapped up and we're gearing up for the start of the formal school year. We've continued our humanitarian aid efforts throughout the summer and our US team is on their way to Amman TONIGHT! Check out all of our updates below and help us keep up the good work by setting up a monthly donation!

Food & Hygiene Packages For Eid

Today is the first day of the Eid Al'Adha holiday in Jordan and we've been hard at work prepping 550 food and hygiene packages to be delivered to families in need for the holiday. Many thanks to the Annenberg Foundation for making this initiative possible!

New Shoes for 160 Kids

The Eid holiday often means new clothes and shoes for families. But these luxuries are hard to come by for refugee families, so the community from the Al Faris International School in Riyadh came together to give 160 kids new shoes! Our team took kids in groups to a local shoe store to have them pick out and try on their new kicks. What an amazing experience and gift for them! 

Upcoming Theater Workshop

We are excited to host actress and dancer Erin Segal at The Azraq School for a 3-week theater workshop this month! Students will learn the basics of theatrical expression, the components of storytelling and they will write their own one-act plays. At the end of the workshop, we'll host a live reading for their families and community members. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting program!

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Off To Jordan!

TSF Founders Lexi and Demetri are off to Jordan for a few weeks tonight. They'll be meeting with our partners, checking in on projects, and working on some very exciting education program expansions that we'll provide updates on as soon as we can! Make sure to Follow Us On Facebook and On Instagram to see what they are up to.

As always, thank you for your incredible support. Everything we do is only possible because of the generosity of others!

With gratitude,
The TSF Team

BLOG CONTRIBUTOR: Yasmine Hamdi

Yasmine Hamdi is a 17 year old author, public speaker and advocate for human and animal rights. This August, she traveled to Jordan with her family to learn more about the refugee crisis and visit TSF projects on the ground. This is her experience: 

The Experience of a Lifetime: Giving Back and Helping Syrian Refugees in Northern Jordan 

Written by Yasmine Hamdi

Yasmine with students at The Azraq School

Yasmine with students at The Azraq School

When we aren't the ones suffering, it's easy to turn our backs on others. But if we don't help each other, what will become of us? This is not about politics or beliefs- it's about being human.

I was supposed to go to California this summer.

In fact, I'd been looking forward to surfing some of the best beaches in the United States and hanging out with friends there for over a year. But in June, I watched The White Helmets, a documentary about the Syrian Civil War, and it changed everything. The film had opened my eyes to the refugee crisis and made me want to do something so badly. It was impossible now for me to just have fun all summer when there were so many things to be done to help others. I dove into researching every aspect of the war, watching countless videos and reading numerous articles. I discovered that over a million refugees had fled to the neighboring country of Jordan, most of them not even living in refugee camps but rather, in urban areas under varying conditions. I told my dad everything I'd learned and told him that we had to go to Jordan. He listened carefully and thought it was a good idea, but told me it had to be either Jordan or California, not both.

That was the easiest choice I'd ever had to make. 

I discovered The Syria Fund through Instagram and reached out to the cofounder, Lexi. She was incredibly nice and helpful from the start, and I'm lucky to know her. I met with her in NYC in late June, and was so inspired by her. Lexi had lived in Damascus before the war and started this non-profit organization in hopes of helping the Syrian people who had made her feel so at home years ago. The Syria Fund constantly supplies refugee families who need financial help with food and other critically-needed supplies. They also started two schools in Jordan that allows Syrian kids to continue their educations and can keep learning without letting a war put their futures on hold. Lexi made it possible for me to visit one of the schools, and we worked out all the details together. Check them out here !

In mid-July, I finally embarked on this life-changing trip to Jordan, accompanied my dad, sister and grandma. From the moment I stepped foot there, I felt at home. It's safe to say that it is the one country that completely stole my heart. For the first few days, I was a tourist visiting Petra, the Dead Sea and Jerash, but the day of the school visit quickly arrived. My family and I were in Amman on that day, and we drove over early to pick up Owais, one of the school's teachers, at his house. We all chatted and got to know each other before hitting the road for Azraq. Owais was so kind and acted as our tour guide for the day. He's a music teacher, and is very good at what he does. We gradually left the bustle of the capital for gaping fields of dried grass. The number of cars on the highway slowly began to drop, as Azraq is a pretty isolated city in Northern Jordan. We passed a military base and several Syrian border signs on our way, signifying how close we were to the war-torn country. 

We also passed Azraq Refugee Camp- the second-largest refugee camp in Jordan and home to over 30,000 refugees. I had chills down my spine as I saw the thousands of makeshift homes and white UNICEF tents. It's one thing to see refugee camps on TV and to be so far away and sheltered that you don't give it another thought, but being right in front of them was a whole other story.

I was witnessing a place of broken families and lost dreams.

Azraq Refugee Camp

Azraq Refugee Camp

Syrian border: 53 km/ about 30 miles away

Syrian border: 53 km/ about 30 miles away

Not long after passing the camp, we pulled up at the school. It was such a cute little place, with about 5 different caravans that made up different classrooms. Inspirational phrases and pictures were painted on the caravans, and each one was meant for a different grade. There was a little playground and a mini library as well.

From the moment we arrived, I had kids running up to me and hugging and kissing my cheeks. They were so excited to see us! Owais started off by giving the kids a brief introduction to who I was, and told them how I wanted to write my second book on the Syrian civil war. I then got to spend around 20 minutes in each caravan and meeting all the kids. I gave them gifts I'd brought them; candy and colored pens, and we drew, laughed and talked together. The kids didn't speak English but I speak Arabic. Although we don't speak the same dialect, I know some Syrian words and phrases and we were able to communicate pretty well. 

Cutest School Ever

Cutest School Ever

Reem and her new book!

Reem and her new book!

One of the first girls I met was Reem, an 11 year old girl who holds so much curiosity and intelligence in such a tiny body. She showed me around and drew a picture of her school for me. I was so impressed by her passion for learning, kind heart and ability to speak English. I gave her one of the signed copies of my book, Spirit of the Wind, that I had with me. I told her that she could practice reading English this way. She was so happy and cradled that book to her chest for the rest of the day. Reem inspired me, and she was everything I wanted in a main character: sweet, brave and determined. I knew the main character for my book would be based somewhat around her.

Group pic with my new friends! I love these kids so much.

Group pic with my new friends! I love these kids so much.

I went around the classroom, meeting the other students and drawing pictures with them. Most of the kids were from Homs, Syria and had crossed the Jordanian border when it was still possible. The border was closed now. I asked them how their lives were before the war, and they told me it was great, or perfect. They spoke of Syria nostalgically, with a wiseness beyond their years. They all told me they wanted to go back when the war was over. I smiled, because I knew that when they did, they'd be the ones to rebuild Syria. I asked them if they preferred Syria or Jordan, and most of them said "both!" One girl told me she considered Jordan her second country. My dad and I then spoke with the older kids, learning more about their lives before the war and listening to their stories.

Ibtisam and me

Ibtisam and me

Refugees aren't scary. They are kids that have temporarily lost their homes to war. And they are the most incredible kids I've ever met. Sweet, smart and funny, yet they all encompass these old souls because of the things they've seen and experienced. 

Meet Ibtisam: a mature and playful 12 year old. She was always joking with us and her friends, yet told me with all seriousness that she wanted to be a doctor when she got older to help people. 

I told her that I wanted to do that as well. Who knew, maybe someday we would both work together with an organization like Doctors Without Borders and help those stuck in a humanitarian crises like this one.

Such an awesome kid! That smile though.

Such an awesome kid! That smile though.

This is a 13 year old boy who has been through more than any person, let alone child should go through. And he's always smiling, and so optimistic despite the awful things he's lived through. He told us how his family had been living in Syria with no real intentions of leaving, until an airstrike killed his two brothers. His family decided to leave and they spent three days traveling by bus before they finally reached Jordan.

The family spent a few days at Zaatari refugee camp, the biggest refugee camp in the country, and eventually found their way to the town of Azraq, where they now reside and their son goes to school, thanks to the work of The Syria Fund. 

I also met a 14 year old girl who was very shy, but incredibly sweet. She opened up to us and explained how her uncle was killed in Syria and she witnessed an airstrike happen right in front of her. Since then, she's suffered psychological trauma and gets scared whenever she hears an airplane (this happens a lot since planes from the nearby military base fly over the school all the time). She began crying while she spoke to us, and my heart broke for her. I look forward to the day when she will finally be able to sleep without her dreams being plagued by nightmares.

Delivering food boxes, house by house!

Delivering food boxes, house by house!

I met more kids and heard more stories, but those are better left for another post. Too soon, it was time to leave. Owais took us to visit some refugee families who were living in difficult situations. Some of them were handicapped, most were very poor, all were victims of a terrible war. I spent the afternoon delivering food boxes to them. Before I'd left for Jordan, I had raised money with a Crowdrise fundraiser and linked it to The Syria Fund so they got all the money. Thanks to so many generous donors, I was able to raise over $800. With that money, we were able to buy food boxes to feed these families. They thanked me, hugged me and invited us in for tea. They didn't have much, but they wanted to give us the little they did have. 

I was so moved by their kindness, and above all, their resilience.  

I'm so humbled to have been able to make so many people happy. Here are the recipients of a food box

I'm so humbled to have been able to make so many people happy. Here are the recipients of a food box

Money is always needed, so if you want to help, here is the link to my fundraiser: Help me Improve the Lives of Syrian Refugees . Any amount helps, and as you can see, 100% of the money goes directly to refugee aid.

The following day, back in Amman, we worked with a Syria Fund volunteer named Maher. With about 7 others, we stuffed about 100 backpacks with school supplies. The rest of the money that I raised was used to purchase all these supplies! Now, the kids would have material to learn with. I met some incredible volunteers while I was there, including Julie, Maher's wife. She was French but lived in Jordan. She had us over for tea and explained to us that she worked for the Middle East Children's Institute and would love to have me help her next time I was in Jordan. For sure, we will make that happen! We spoke about the refugee crisis, our visit to the Azraq school, future projects, and more! 

Stuffing backpacks with pens, notebooks, erasers, rulers, and more

Stuffing backpacks with pens, notebooks, erasers, rulers, and more

The finished product. Stuffed and ready for eager students!

The finished product. Stuffed and ready for eager students!

This has undoubtedly been the most incredible experience of my life where I discovered my passion for humanitarian work. I'm grateful to The Syria Fund for giving me this opportunity. I'm grateful to the volunteers who work hard daily to better humanity; I strive to be like you. I'm grateful to the beautiful Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for taking in so many refugees and providing them with a place they can call their second home.  Most of all, I'm grateful to those that opened their hearts to me and trust me with their stories. I promise to do my very best to bring them to life and make your voices heard. This has only made me want to work harder to provide for refugees, and I can't wait to do more for them in Jordan very soon. I aspire to help The Syria Fund in even bigger ways next time.

This is just the beginning... 

Original blog post: http://yasminehamdi.com/blog/the-experience-of-a-lifetime-giving-back-and-helping-syrian-refugees-in-northern-jordan

Together We Showed That We #CantDoNothing!

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This year, in honor of World Refugee Day, more than 330 people joined our campaign to say that we #CantDoNothing about thousands of refugee children missing out on their education. 

It mattered!

In just a couple of days, and with an extremely generous matching contribution from an anonymous donor, we raised over $20,000!!

This will go directly towards The Syria Fund's education programs for Syrian refugee children in Jordan. Specifically, your donations will help fund:

  • 5 monthly teacher salaries for the next year
  • Arabic, English, Math, Science, Music, IT and Art programming with necessary supplies
  • Backpacks with essential school supplies for more than 100 students
Special thanks to Milana Vayntrub for her powerful #CantDoNothing message and to Kristen Bell, Reza Aslan and more for helping us get the word out! 

Special thanks to Milana Vayntrub for her powerful #CantDoNothing message and to Kristen BellReza Aslan and more for helping us get the word out! 

What You Can Do To Stay Involved!

Thank you for being a part of this incredible effort.  If this campaign has inspired you (it has definitely inspired us!), here are some great ways to stay involved:

  1. Set up a monthly recurring donation to The Syria Fund! CLICK HERE to do so!
  2. Spread the word! Like us on Facebook and Instagram and share our message with your family and friends!
  3. Host a fundraiser - we recommend Crowdrise as a great platform to do so
  4. Donate your skills! Are you a graphic designer, an accountant, a researcher or have another skill you think you could contribute to our small organization? Let us know! Email us at contact@thesyriafund.org
  5. Shop on Amazon Smile! Today is Prime Day and Amazon will donate a percentage of spend to The Syria Fund when you shop via the link: smile.amazon.com/ch/47-4547136

Thank you again so much for your amazing support!

With gratitude,
The Syria Fund team

#CantDoNothing This World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day is June 20th!

Will you share your voice because you

#CantDoNothing?

The Syria Fund teamed up with Can't Do Nothing to give you an easy way to make a difference for Syrian refugee children in Jordan today. 

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugee children in Jordan are missing out on years of their education. This World Refugee Day, tell your friends why you #CantDoNothing and take action to make sure that refugee children have the chance to go to school. Share a picture on social media with the hashtag #CantDoNothing and invite five friends to participate. Together we can create a ripple effect of good and prevent a lost generation.

It's as easy as 1, 2, 3:
1. Click the link below.
2. Add your photo, follow the prompts to post on FB and share with your friends! 
3. Watch the impact - Cheerity.com allows you to view how far your good will go!

Your Contributions In Action!

This past month, we distributed hundreds of food boxes and hygiene kits. We got kids singing and dancing and we hosted not one, not two, but three music events for students, families and community members! This month, for Ramadan, we're getting ready to pass out hundreds of food boxes for families in need.

Everything we do is possible because of YOUR donations -- and you are making a huge impact for so many Syrian refugees living in Jordan! 

Read on to learn more about the activities you've been supporting!



#Mom2Mom Mother's Day Campaign

In early May, we asked you to contribute $10 each to purchase and distribute essential hygiene packages to Syrian moms for Mother's Day. You responded! 

In less than a week, we raised over $3,000 to assemble 300+ bags that went directly into the hands of mothers who needed it most. This is really as direct as it gets!

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2017 #SongsForSyrians Music Week

We believe in the power of music! Since we started the Songs for Syrians music program in June 2016, we've been teaching musical instruments and music composition to nearly 200 students! The efforts of the past year culminated in an incredible, intensive music week held in three schools for 250+ kids from May 14-20.

For 5 days, we learned new beats, composed original songs and performed skits! We are spreading hope through music and sharing cross-cultural traditions with our students. You can really see the light in our students' eyes when we give them the tools to express themselves through the arts. Stay tuned for a recap video of the 2017 #SongsForSyrians Music Week!


Ramadan Food Boxes

Ramadan Mubarek! The Muslim holy month of Ramadan started last week and families across the world will be fasting from sun up to sun down every day for 30 days. Ramadan is typically a joyful time of year to reflect and spend time with family and friends.

However, many refugee families in Jordan struggle daily to make ends meet. These food boxes will bring them both the nutrition they need and the dignity they deserve this holiday season.  Food boxes cost $30 per box and include Iftar (evening break fast meal) and Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) items to last a family for two weeks! 

Thank you for all that you do! We are making sure that every dollar that you donate has a direct impact on the families we serve. Whether that means handing out a food package to a family in need or employing a teacher to make sure 30 kids are learning every day, we are committed to making direct and meaningful contributions to better their lives. 

Stay involved with us! Consider making a monthly contribution to The Syria Fund!



With gratitude,
The Syria Fund team

Songs for Syrians: Our Team Is Going To Jordan!

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We're going to Jordan!

The Songs for Syrians 2017 Music Week is coming up May 12-20. Read on to learn about our plans! 

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We can't believe it has been three months since we all gathered together in New York City for the Songs for Syrians fundraiser! That night, we raised $21,000 that to help expand our music program for Syrian refugee children in Jordan. As part of the program, we've tapped into the expertise of Nina Stern and S'Cool Sounds to bring an intensive week of music education to the students and teachers at 4 different schools across Jordan. 
Here's the update:

THE TEAM

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Nina Stern
Concert musician and founder of S'Cool Sounds Nina Stern has been hailed as an innovator in teaching school-age children to be fine young musicians. Nina has shared her teaching methods with students and teachers throughout the U.S. and in the Netherlands, and has spearheaded recorder programs in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, Kigutu, Burundi and in multiple classrooms for Syrian refugee children throughout Northern Jordan in partnership with TSF.

Owais Omari
Owais has been working with The Syria Fund as a music teacher and program coordinator since September 2016. He is an accomplished guitar player, singer and educator. In addition to his work with refugee students, Owais plays in two different bands and helps TSF and our partners keep our programs on track and ever improving. 

 

Spiff Wiegand
Spiff plays over 20 instruments as diverse as accordion, didgeridoo, and violin. As a one man band he even plays up to 7 simultaneously (see the videos on YouTube). He regularly performs in a wide variety of styles like Western Swing, Contra Dance, Country, French Musette, Rock and more. He's taught music to youth from 3 months to 18 years and has designed curricula for classes in improvisation, practicing, body percussion, and frame drums. Click to learn more!

Lexi Shereshewsky
Lexi was inspired to start The Syria Fund after spending time living and studying in Damascus, Syria throughout 2009 and 2010. As Executive Director, Lexi works closely with TSF's partners on the ground and donors from across the U.S. and around the world to bring people together and programs like Songs for Syrians to life. 

 

 

THE SCHOOLS

Sahab: 45 minutes south of Amman in Sahab, TSF runs weekly music classes as part of MECI's 2nd shift education program in Jordanian public schools. Click to learn more. 
Al-Rahba School: 115 students attend the Al-Rahba School in rural NE Jordan through our partners at the White Hands Association. TSF is excited to launch the SFS program at Al-Rahba this Spring! Click to learn more.
Azraq School: TSF's music team is excited to return to the Azraq school this year where we initially launched the SFS program in 2016. Click to learn more.

 

THE PLAN

To build upon the great work that our music teacher Owais has been doing with the children, and to take them to the next level, Nina and Spiff are designing a special curriculum that will include new songs and techniques for the recorder, instrument building, hand percussion and more! The instructors will have specific time with classroom teachers to expose them to the benefits of using music in their everyday lessons. At the end of each school’s session, the students and teachers will have the opportunity to perform for their peers and celebrate their accomplishments!

Music is a proven method to help children learn in so many ways. The students in our programs have endured so much -- from fleeing their war-torn country to missing years of school due to lack of access. Music is a way for them to reconnect, use their brains in different and unique ways, and just have fun! You can learn more about all the ways that music benefits a child's education HERE


We’re so excited for the 2017 SFS Music Week and we hope you’ll follow along! We’ll be posting from our social media handles on Facebook and Instagram. Make sure to join us!

And in the meantime, get inspired by the ORIGINAL song, written and composed by the Azraq school’s 3rd grade music class, Al-Shams Al-Azhar (The Sun That Makes The Flowers Grow):

Thanks for your continued support! This is all possible because of YOU!


With gratitude,

The Syria Fund & S’Cool Sounds Music Team

2017 Off To A Great Start & Celebrating Women's History Month

2017 has been off to a great start at The Syria Fund!

UPDATES FROM OUR SCHOOLS:

White Hands School
120 kids now attend school at the White Hands School in rural Badia Shmaliya in Northeast Jordan. A new library and librarian are now at the school, bringing fun activities that inspire our kids to read every day! We are also excited to start music classes at the school this Spring as part of our #SongsForSyrians music program!

Azraq
At the Azraq School, students started a small rooftop garden, planting local trees in recycled tires. They were so excited and proud of this project, that we are now laying the groundwork for a proper community garden! We’ll be using the talents of a local farmer named Heyel to create a sustainable, water-efficient garden in recycled water tanks. The kids will learn about growing and harvesting vegetables and herbs like eggplants, tomatoes, mint and parsley! Big thanks to the EcoKids Kindergarten class in Amman for raising money to start this garden project!

 

Many of the children at the White Hands school live in tents in very remote desert areas. When we first partnered with the White Hands Association, none of these children were going to school at all. In late 2015, we created tented classrooms in their communities to address this immediate need.  Today, these students are able to ride to school in a bus, attend classes in a proper classroom, and have access to a library and extracurricular activities. This amazing success story is all thanks to YOUR support!

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MECI
The Syria Fund continues to work closely with our partners at the Middle East Children’s Institute (MECI) to bring life skills trainings to Syrian and Jordanian teenagers. Teenagers can be especially hard to reach in refugee communities as they often have to work to support their families. Life Skills trainings teach them self-confidence and the value of leadership and community organizing. Recent TSF-supported Life Skills trainings brought together Syrian and Jordanian boys to beautify their neighborhood with a small garden!

Your support allows us to run these programs for hundreds of Syrian children in Jordan. From supporting teachers to buying school supplies to hosting extracurricular activities like those mentioned above -- every dollar makes a difference! Help us keep these programs going! 


Celebrating Women's History Month
As Women’s History Month comes to an end, we are proud to highlight our amazing partner organizations - both in Jordan and the United States - all run by incredible women who work tirelessly in their communities to address the pressing needs of refugees. These individuals do great work to support refugees and be advocates for women everywhere. Here are a few of their stories (click each picture to watch their video!):

Catherine Ashcroft, founder of Helping Refugees in Jordan (HRJ), started collecting discarded items from friends and families in Amman, Jordan and bringing them to communities with large refugee populations. Quickly, her garage became a massive sorting center, housing items for distribution. What began as a minor volunteer effort has blossomed into a charity that helps thousands of refugees with direct aid and sustainable programs across Jordan. 

Catherine Ashcroft, founder of Helping Refugees in Jordan (HRJ), started collecting discarded items from friends and families in Amman, Jordan and bringing them to communities with large refugee populations. Quickly, her garage became a massive sorting center, housing items for distribution. What began as a minor volunteer effort has blossomed into a charity that helps thousands of refugees with direct aid and sustainable programs across Jordan. 

Zeinab Al-Zubaid runs The White Hands Association, a local charity in Badia Shmaliya, an area in rural Northeast Jordan. Many Syrians have fled the war to take refuge in this extremely rural, desert area. With the help of The Syria Fund and HRJ, Zeinab's charity established multiple education spaces for the 100s of kids with no access to schools. The White Hands Schools for Refugees now reach nearly 500 students!

Zeinab Al-Zubaid runs The White Hands Association, a local charity in Badia Shmaliya, an area in rural Northeast Jordan. Many Syrians have fled the war to take refuge in this extremely rural, desert area. With the help of The Syria Fund and HRJ, Zeinab's charity established multiple education spaces for the 100s of kids with no access to schools. The White Hands Schools for Refugees now reach nearly 500 students!

Milana Vayntrub was vacationing in Greece when she saw first-hand the extent of the refugee crisis spilling into Europe. Rather than ignoring what she saw, she took action, extending her ticket to go volunteer and ultimately starting the #CantDoNothing movement. Milana has helped raise thousands of dollars for TSF's education programs and is an amazing advocate for refugees and role model for all of us!

Milana Vayntrub was vacationing in Greece when she saw first-hand the extent of the refugee crisis spilling into Europe. Rather than ignoring what she saw, she took action, extending her ticket to go volunteer and ultimately starting the #CantDoNothing movement. Milana has helped raise thousands of dollars for TSF's education programs and is an amazing advocate for refugees and role model for all of us!

At the Azraq school in Jordan, The Syria Fund supports full time teachers who educate over 100 Syrian refugee children in Arabic, Math and Science. Miriam was hired as a teacher three years ago after fleeing Syria and is proud to bring knowledge to her 26 students every day.

At the Azraq school in Jordan, The Syria Fund supports full time teachers who educate over 100 Syrian refugee children in Arabic, Math and Science. Miriam was hired as a teacher three years ago after fleeing Syria and is proud to bring knowledge to her 26 students every day.


SONGS FOR SYRIANS FUNDRAISER

At the end of January, we had our first New York City fundraiser. New Yorkers came together and raised over $21,000 to fully fund our growing music program for the entire year! We are thrilled to expand the initiative to bring music education to over 300 students. We are also planning another music-intensive week in Jordan in mid-May! Thanks to everyone who came out, and if you couldn’t be there, check out our event highlight video below:


Thanks for reading! As always, everything that we do is because of YOUR generous support! THANK YOU! 

Keep up your amazing work -- make a donation to The Syria Fund today and LIKE us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on what we're doing! 



Warmly,
Lexi, Demetri, Nora & The Syria Fund team

Happy New Year // Our 2016 Annual Report

Dear Supporters,

Happy New Year!  2016 had a lot of ups and downs but we couldn't be more proud of everything that has happened at The Syria Fund this year. That is why we are so excited to present you with our FIRST annual report! As you read about the major accomplishments of our first 15 months of existence, please consider making a donation to The Syria Fund as part of your end-of-year giving.

In the first year of The Syria Fund, we learned and accomplished so much and we have felt the full range of emotions. Working with our partners on the ground in Jordan, we have met and heard the stories of families in heartbreaking situations and also felt the immense joy of helping to lighten the load for so many in need. We built a community of supporters from across the United States and around the world who lend their support because we all believe that families deserve a safe place to call home and every child deserves a chance to get an education.

We have been so touched by outstanding generosity of all of you, our donors, who come from nearly every state and across the world. Every food parcel, every warm blanket, and every smile on the face of a little boy or girl back in school for the first time in years is possible because of your contributions. From the young supporter who sewed stuffed animals by hand to the classroom of third-graders who performed Syrian melodies on the recorder to share with our refugee music students in Jordan to the dozens of volunteers who helped with everything from designing mailers to tax advice, we have been humbled by the selfless desire of so many to make an impact. Together, we can grow The Syria Fund, expand our programs, and reach across the world to positively impact the lives of thousands and remind them that they are not forgotten.  From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

The Syria Fund's Major 2016 Accomplishments:

1. Created 5 new education facilities that now host over 500 students

2. Employed 9 fulltime teachers, both Syrian and Jordanian

3. Distributed 1000s of critically-needed items to vulnerable families who needed it most

4. Launched our first music program, Songs for Syrians, and expanded it to reach 200 students

5. Kept all administrative and development costs under 7%, ensuring that 93% of funds raised went directly towards TSF programming

Thank you for an amazing year! Here is to a more peaceful and joyful 2017 for Syrian families and all others around the world who need it most.

With gratitude,
Lexi, Demetri and The Syria Fund team

Join Us January 26th in New York City!

Join us on Thursday January 26th in New York City for a night of music and culture to raise money for Songs for Syrians, a music education program for Syrian refugee children in Jordan!

Songs For Syrians is a music education program designed for Syrian refugee children in Jordan created by New York City-based non-profits The Syria Fund and S'Cool Sounds. Music director and concert musician Nina Stern and Montessori music educator Matilda Giampietro, PhD have developed an innovative approach to the group study of instrumental music and dance using recorders and local percussion instruments. With an emphasis on local musical traditions, Songs for Syrians aims to celebrate Syrian culture while bringing unique approaches to music education mastered in the United States.

Join us on Thursday, 1/26 at 7pm for Middle Eastern eats catered by Eat Offbeat, wine and soft drinks and a special musical performance by East of the River and help us raise money to expand this valuable music program.

An Update on TSF's Border Relief Campaign

Dear Supporters,
 
We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Sitting around the table with family and friends last week, we were particularly grateful for the amazing support you've provided this year to help thousands of refugee families in need. As the situation for Syrians worsens by the day, we continue our important work to respond to the needs that so many are facing -- and we couldn't do it without each and every one of you. 

Last month, we put out a call to help The Syria Fund bring critically-needed food supplies to thousands of families trapped in a makeshift camp on the Syria-Jordan border.  This area is called the Berm, after the raised barrier of sand in no man’s land between the two countries. The estimated 75,000 people living there today have been almost entirely cut off from humanitarian aid since a security incident at the end of June.
 
When we called, you answered. In 48 hours, and with the generous support of actress Kristen Bell, we raised $17,000 to purchase food to distribute directly to these families in need! We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support - thank you to everyone who donated, shared our posts, and forwarded our email.

With this incredible effort, we purchased and assembled over 800 food packages.  In mid-November, our partner organizations distributed those packages to approximately 4,800 refugees trapped at the Berm. Each package, valued at $21 USD, included the below items and was designed to last a family of six for 2+ weeks:

  • 5kg rice
  • 2kg sugar
  • 800 gr powdered milk
  • 1 box tea bags (tea is a very important part of Syrian culture)
  • 1.8 ltr cooking oil
  • 4 tins of beans
  • 3 packets of spaghetti
  • 3 packets of macaroni noodles
  • 1 bag of lentils
  • 1 pack cooking stock cubes
  • 4 packets of tomato puree

This is just one example of the tremendous impact you've made this year. All of you have come together to donate what you can and spread the message that our community cares about the people of Syria and, with so many in dire circumstances, we #cantdonothing. THANK YOU!

theberm2.jpg

Later this month, we'll be sending out our 2016 Annual Report -- stay tuned for a detailed breakdown of our projects and finances to see what we've accomplished through The Syria Fund this year and where we're heading in 2017!
 
With continued gratitude,
Lexi, Demetri and The Syria Fund team

Songs For Syrians Update

Dear Supporters,

This past June, The Syria Fund launched our first music program Songs for Syrians. Since we started, we've been committed to continuing the program and expanding it to reach other Syrian children who can benefit from the experience of learning a musical instrument and interacting with their peers through music. 

As Nina Stern, concert musician and co-producer of Songs for Syrians said,

"It was a powerful and uplifting experience, spending a week in Azraq with The Syria Fund and our music team - at times joyous, at times sad, at times frustrating, but always inspirational. In our S'Cool Sounds programs we aim to teach many things through music - focus and discipline, team work and compassion, communication and respect - but primarily we seek to bring joy to children, their teachers, and families. We had many joyful moments, which were made all the more precious by the knowledge that these children and their families have endured such suffering."

This week, our Songs for Syrians program in Azraq held their first concert AND we formally launched the program at three new schools for Syrian refugees in Salt, Jordan through our partners at MECI. 

Led by our extremely talented and dedicated music teacher Owais, we are continuing to bring music to our students and in doing so, encouraging their self expression and personal growth for years to come!

None of this would be possible without YOUR support! You are making a HUGE difference getting these kids back on track, in the classroom, and using positive outlets to express themselves after all they have been through. THANK YOU! 

If this program inspires you, like it does us, share it with your friends and consider making another donation to support Songs for Syrians today!

 

With love and gratitude,
The Syria Fund team
 

URGENT APPEAL: Border Relief

Dear Supporters,

We are in urgent need of your help.

As many of you know, The Syria Fund has been providing critically-needed food and hygiene aid to the vulnerable population of Syrian refugees stranded in a remote desert area on the Syria-Jordan border.

These refugees -- who now number close to 75,000 -- have been almost entirely without humanitarian assistance since the end of June when a security breach led to Jordan sealing the border. 

A make-shift graveyard on the Syria-Jordan border [source: Amnesty International]

A make-shift graveyard on the Syria-Jordan border [source: Amnesty International]

Food is scarce and disease is spreading. Aid organizations have not been able to reach the camp to properly document the awful conditions.  But recent satellite images show makeshift grave sites.  Aid workers believe the deaths are due to hunger, hepatitis and other infectious diseases, and women forced to give birth without medical care. 

We've just gotten word that our partners on the ground have finally received permission from the Jordanian authorities to deliver food aid this week.  We are asking for your support to ensure that they can purchase and deliver as much food as they can bring.

We urgently need your help to make this possible.

A generous donor has agreed to match all donations up to $5,000, so your gift will have twice the impact!

As always, your donations will go directly towards purchasing and delivering items into the hands of families in need.

Please help us by spreading the word to your families and friends. This is an opportunity to make an immediate, life-saving impact for people who desperately need our support.

Examples of food items and pricing:

5 kg bag of rice: $4.25
5 kg bag of sugar $4.00
Box of tea bags: $1.75
Can of beans $0.35 each
1.8 liters of cooking oil $2.85
800 gram bag of powdered milk $4.25

Thank you for your generosity and continued support. Together, we are making a tremendous difference and we are so grateful to each and every one of you for making it possible.

Warmly,
Lexi, Demetri & The Syria Fund team

To learn more about this difficult situation, you can check out the below links:
CNN: Syria's 'ghost refugees' struggle for survival in no man's land
Al Jazeera International: Amnesty: 75,000 refugees trapped on Syria-Jordan border
New York Times: Save The Refugees On The Berm

Art Class With Milana

#CantDoNothing founder Milana Vayntrub joined The Syria Fund as part of #SongsForSyrians, a music and arts workshop for Syrian refugee children in Azraq, Jordan. Here, Milana shares her experience: 

The Syria Fund is an inspiring organization that provides education to kids that may be left without it otherwise. I think most people assume that refugee children attend school in the camps, which is mostly true, however 80% of refugees in Jordan don't live in the camps. 

Traveling to Azraq, Jordan with The Syria Fund to meet the kids and see the classrooms they've established was incredible. I hope the people that donated know how valuable their contributions have been and the impact they've made in Azraq and in other high-poverty areas in Northern Jordan.

I'm so happy I got to be a part of the #SongsforSyrians program and teach art to the kids, while two amazingly talented teachers taught them music. The music lit the kids up. They loved it!

My favorite part was TSF Founder Lexi's wonderful talk with the girls about how important it is that they continue studying even if it gets hard. She said it's especially important for girls. They seemed to hear her loud and clear. Now we just have to make sure there's a thriving school for them to attend. 

On our last night in Azraq, we had a big party. The kids sang, performed new songs they learned on the recorder, we hung up everyone's art projects, and invited their families to participate. The kids danced, played, giggled and had more fun than they've probably had in a while. By providing them with education, we are offering them a future with an opportunity to make a better life. 

Help us expand our #SongsForSyrians music and arts program by making a tax-deductible donation today!

Providing Aid In Marqa

Marqa is a deep poverty pocket outside of Amman, Jordan. Extremely cheap rent has attracted a large number of refugees, widows and others with physical and mental disabilities.

This month, through your generous support and with the help of our partners at HRJ, The Syria Fund provided food packages, milk, medical supplies and other critical aid to 30 families that will sustain them for the next three months.

Here are some of their stories: 

This is Nissar from Syria. After his brother was killed in the war, he fled with his own wife and children and his brother's wife and children to Jordan. He is responsible for providing for both families - nine people in total. He tries to work but it is difficult for Syrian refugees to find reliable work. 

Umm Alleh's husband suffers from mental health issues and war trauma. Sometimes her husband disappears for days at a time. He has been found wandering the streets or sleeping outside. She tries to provide income for their family of four children by selling Syrian dishes at the market, but this is simply not enough. Food boxes supplied by The Syria Fund will alleviate a lot of the stress she carries. 

Umm Ismail's husband was killed in the war in Syria. Her daughter’s husband was also killed in Syria. Today, they live with twelve people in one house, including her children and her daughter’s children. It is extremely difficult for them to provide enough food and income for all of them to live. 

For $40, you can provide a month of food packages for a family in need. Please consider making a donation and helping us continue to provide for these struggling families.

Nora Talks Songs For Syrians

TSF team member Nora Barre talks about her experience with #SongsForSyrians:

Witnessing the Syrian crisis and suffering from the other side of the world was unbearable. Too many times, I watched my screen in disbelief as their homes, neighborhoods, and cities were targeted by bombs. My arms were stretched out wishing to hold and shelter them as I watched their families face death, but all I could do was cry. When the Syrian children told me where and when they escaped from, I pieced together the events they must've endured.

Nora outside the Azraq school with students

Nora outside the Azraq school with students

Being there with them was often more healing for me, than for them. Our team was humbled by their unconditional love and trust. Every day we were greeted at the door with hugs and smiles that brightened our world. Their tenacity and determination to persevere and grow was mesmerizing. They taught me courage and strength, even while feeling afraid. In a world where being Syrian holds negative connotations, Songs for Syrians planted seeds of hope for a better future and a reminder of their beautiful heritage. No one could experience what we did and leave unchanged . How dare I not be hopeful, when they glare at their own despair with a fierce and hopeful eye?

Reflections from Matilda & Contra Dancing in Jordan

Montessori educator and The syria fund volunteer Matilda Giampietro reflects on her experience teaching music with #SongsForSyrians in Jordan:

The desert is starkly beautiful, vast and wild. In the day the sun is inescapable, powerful, burning  hot and dry. Someone said it is like a hair dryer blowing on your skin. Yet at night the desert is completely alluring, with vast starry skies and a delicious clean wind you can lean into. We have become a company of friends, comfortable with each other in simple and challenging situations. These friends are from Jordan, America, Iraq, Spain and India. They are brave, intelligent, funny and full of life. They are kind. They are interesting to talk to and enjoyable to be with. That is because they are interested in the world and determined to make it a better place. Each of them brings different abilities, viewpoints and strengths to the work we are doing.  

I feel so glad to be part of this company of friends!  All through the process of learning about The Syria Fund and the Songs For Syrians project I have had the feeling I am in the right place at the right time. And all the people on this team are too.  

I am really grateful for the opportunity to use my talents in music, dance and teaching to make a difference in this part of the world. I love these Syrian children and their families. They are such beautiful people, so hurt, so badly treated, yet determined to live a better life. They are part of an ancient and sophisticated culture that the rest of the world really needs. They dance with such passion and joy!  Learning about their musical culture, and sharing traditions from mine is a gift I will never forget.

July Update

Dear Supporters,

We’re back from a very productive trip in Jordan and there’s so much to share!  Read on to learn more about our week-long music workshop and the new school we are supporting that will allow nearly 150 students to return to school.

 

The #SongsForSyrians Program


The Songs for Syrians pilot program was an overwhelming success!  From June 26-30, our team of volunteers brought a comprehensive music education program to our partner school in Azraq, Jordan.  Because the school was on summer break, our talented music instructors Nina and Matilda took over the entire day, working with the students in small groups.

Nina taught recorder to the older students.  They learned how to hold the instrument, read rhythms and musical notation, and play basic melodies.

Matilda worked with children of all ages, introducing them to the Montessori teaching method, which includes singing, listening, dancing, and rhythmic notation.  She taught Western and Syrian rhythms and even had the kids square dancing!

We concluded the program with a concert celebration where the children performed the music they learned throughout the week for their families. It was a joyful occasion and a reminder of the power of music to bring people together even in the face of war and dislocation.

But the most important work is yet to come.  In close collaboration with our two instructors, a local volunteer, Jorge Ortiz, is continuing weekly music classes and hosting an after-school recorder club!  The goal is to infuse music into the culture of the school so students and teachers can benefit from the universal skills that music can teach.  As the program develops, we will look to expand it into other schools for Syrian children. 

Look out for a larger video recap of the Songs For Syrians trip coming soon!

Expanding Education Programs with the White Hands Association


We’re excited to announce that a new education space is opening this week! With our partners at the White Hands Association (WHA), we’ve helped to purchase and renovate a new building that will host, at capacity, nearly 300 students! Classes will begin this week, with over 90 new students registered! In this remote area of Northeast Jordan, refugee families live in deep poverty and children have no access to public education. We’ve already supported WHA to build 3 tent classrooms and 3 portable classrooms that today host nearly 200 students yet there are still hundreds out of school. This new building will bring us one step closer to getting every child back in school where they belong!

What You Can Do


Make a donation! These programs can't run themselves! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today to support our expanding education programs for Syrian children! A little bit goes a HUGE way and as you can see we are able to make a tremendous impact for these children and their families. 

Host a fundraiser! There are so many fun and simple ways to get your communities involved through a fundraiser! Consider hosting an outdoor lemonade stand, supporting The Syria Fund in an upcoming Marathon or race or inviting your friends over for "Cocktails for a Cause"!  We recommend Crowdrise as a great platform to accept donations. 

Like us on Facebook and share our story on social media! Let your networks know about the great work you have helped us accomplish. 

Thank you, as always, for your continued support!

Best,
Lexi, Demetri and The Syria Fund team