The Azraq Center's Summer Update!

School might be on break but the learning does not stop for the summer. At the Azraq Center, we've adapted our summer schedule to promote enriching education while keeping elements of summer fun!


Embracing Creativity

Thursday is our craft day. Whether it's a musical performance or a drawing workshop, you can always expect your artistic side to be satisfied on Thursdays at the Azraq Center. Our amazing teachers have gone above and beyond this summer through a wide diversity of engaging and unique activities that allow students to think in new ways.


Staying Active

The benefits of exercise span from enhanced academic performance to prolonged smiles throughout the day. We start every morning with guided exercises, making sure all of our students are not only staying active but doing it in a way that makes it fun. We also frequently take trips to the nearby soccer field where our students are navigating teamwork, healthy competition, and bending it like Beckham.


Giving back to our school

We all have a role to play! To give back to the campus, students help out to maintain and clean up around the school alongside teachers and staff. Students saw the intersection of creativity and utility as they channeled their inner artist into repainting walls and murals. This process of giving back creates a shared sense of compassion and care.


Local Military Memorial

6th-grade students spent the day learning more about Azraq Town at a local military memorial and museum. This visit yielded an enriching historic and cultural experience for our students who learned more about the history of their town.


Magic in Azraq

The Azraq Center welcomed Magician Jamie Jibberish from Magic for Smiles who specializes in humanitarian magic for refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Jamie dazzled students with his tricks while promoting self-confidence through performance.


Learning with our moms

This summer, we opened our classroom doors so that our mothers didn't just observe the programs their children are in but were able to actively engage with them IN the classroom. We are committed to sharing a love of education that extends into the home and engaging with parents is an essential step in this process!

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Acting for a Cause

Fourth and fifth-grade students at the center participated in a play entitled Conserving Our Environment. The play explored the effects that littering has on trees and the natural landscape, urging everyone to pick up their trash.


Monday Morning Radio

The Azraq Center's Monday morning radio is an opportunity for students to engage with their classmates and develop their public speaking skills. Students take turns each morning to take the microphone and read out loud, tell a story, or share an update from the news

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Eid al Fitr

After hosting several iftar dinners and providing food distributions throughout the month of Ramadan, the Azraq Center celebrated Eid al Fitr with our community with a banquet dinner and lots of celebrations.


Dance for Azraq high school exams

Students from The Azraq Center performed a traditional dance to celebrate students at a local high school as they took their final exams.


Eid al Adha

This year we went all out for our Eid al Adha celebrations. From arts and crafts to musical performances, our community came together this holiday providing a joyous time for everyone. In addition to these holiday activities, we celebrated by distributing fresh meat and new clothes. This Eid proved a great culmination to an amazing summer at The Azraq Center.

Learning About Al-Azraq

From its strategic location to its natural water sources, the Jordanian town of Azraq has long held significance. Situated in the Azraq Oasis, it serves as the only permanent source of fresh water in approximately 12,000 square kilometers of desert. This opulent land has seen centuries of visitors from Lawrence of Arabia to rare birds from around the world. 


Did you know?

Azraq contains two major nature reserves: The Azraq Wetlands and The Shomari Reserve.

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The town is home to multiple ethnic groups, including Druze and Chechens who settled in the town in the early 1900s.


Chechens, fleeing Russian persecution, were drawn to Azraq in the early 20th century for its farming and fishing opportunities. They still maintain their language and traditions until today!


Water Buffalo, once extinct in the reserve, have been reintroduced to the Wetlands Reserve - if you’re lucky, you can find them there!


More than 280 unique species of migratory birds have been recorded in Azraq - some originating from as far off as Africa and Scandinavia!


Qasr Al Azraq (Azraq Castle) famously served as a Castle for Lawrence of Arabia, and you can find architectural examples from multiple eras at this historic site! It was originally built by the Romans in the early 4th century. The Umayyads used the site as a hunting palace and in the 13th century, the Ayyubids significantly expanded the castle and used it to defend against Crusaders. Later, Turks stationed a garrison at the site in the 16th century and in 1918, Arabs (and Lawrence of Arabia) used the site during the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire.


Fun Fact: The entrance of Qasr Al Azraq has indents from when guards would play board games using pebbles.

Human activity has not only affected this desert oasis landscape through the depletion of natural wetlands— since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the population of Azraq has nearly doubled from the influx of refugees.

With strains on all sectors of the economy in Azraq town, The Syria Fund is committed to providing opportunities for Syrians and Jordanians to improve their situations and create stronger social cohesion. This starts with getting every kid back in school.

At The Azraq Center, we believe that giving children a seat in a classroom is an essential first step in addressing their needs, but we also know that more is needed. In addition to remedial education provided on a daily basis, we enrich our students lives with classes in art, music, and more. And not only that, we want our kids to connect with their community and know the rich history of the town they live in! We take field trips to local historic sites as our students spend time discovering the history, geography, and ethnic diversity of their town!

Winter Relief, Poetry Workshops, and more!

Dear TSF Supporters,

We hope you are staying warm in these winter months! Read on for highlights from the first two months of 2019. Thank you as always for your consistent support - everything we do is possible because of you!

Winter Humanitarian Aid

A New Tent: In January, an intense winter storm hit Azraq with freezing temperatures and gale-force winds. A Jordanian family with four young children living in a tent in a rural desert area literally lost their home in the middle of the night when the winds ripped the tent from under them.
TSF and our local partners at the South Azraq Women’s Association responded immediately. Police picked up the family from the desert and brought them to one of our classrooms that we quickly converted into a shelter for the night.
In the morning, we brought warm jackets and other outdoor clothes for the children. We purchased a new sturdy tent and carpet for the family. Within hours, the tent was properly set up and the family was back on their feet.

Fuel & Wheelchairs: TSF additionally distributed fuel for gas heaters to over 30 families and brought wheelchairs to 5 individuals in need this month. Special thanks to our donors Adnan and the Sunrise Rotary Club for supporting these efforts!

Poetry & Art Workshop in Azraq

TSF partnered with the organization Voices of the Children to run a 3-part workshop with the students at our Azraq Center. In exchange with a private school in Geneva, Switzerland, the program centers around the concept “What is Home?” through three distinct workshops:

Part 1: Poetry - Students were introduced to poetry composition and each student wrote their own poem beginning with “Home is…”.

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Part 2: Artistic Interpretation - The poems were translated and exchanged with the other student group. Our students in Jordan read the Geneva poems and created drawings reflecting the words they read. The students learned from each other's poetry that even though they come from such different circumstances, they found they had more in common than what sets them apart! 

Part 3: Mural Creation - Next week, we will conduct the third part of the workshop where students will create a large-scale mural using elements from their drawings! This summer, we will share the mural in a moving exhibition in Jordan and other areas!

Montessori Teacher Training

With support from the Blossom Hill Foundation, The Syria Fund will be opening up the first ever early education program in Azraq at our new campus this Spring. To create a program inspired by Montessori teaching methodologies, we partnered with the Modern Montessori School (MMS) in Amman, Jordan to host a 180-hour teacher training program for 11 local trainees from Azraq. The training provided both theoretical and hands-on learning opportunities at the school in Amman. Through MMS, we’ve acquired an Arabic-language Montessori curriculum and when our school opens this Spring, we will host 30 children ages 3-5 in this innovative setting!

Make sure to follow us on Facebook & Instagram (@thesyriafund) to stay up-to-date on our activities! We appreciate everything you do to support the communities we serve.

With gratitude,
The Syria Fund team

Summertime in Jordan, Updates from the Ground


A Summer Update from The Syria Fund

Summer is in full swing for our beneficiaries in Jordan! Check out updates below and thank you as always for supporting The Syria Fund's important work for refugees in Jordan.

A New Campus for The Azraq School

This summer, we are thrilled to partner with the European-based NGO Emergency Architecture and Human Rights (EA-HR) to build a new campus for The Azraq School! EA-HR committed to build 100 classrooms for refugee children and, as part of this plan, they are constructing a new campus for us less than a mile down the road from our current school. EA-HR hired a local construction crew of Syrians and Jordanians and is training them, while they work, in sustainable building techniques. 

The new campus (Campus B) will include four classrooms, an IT lab, library, kitchen, and a sports field! Upon completion, it will host up to 200 Syrian and Jordanian children and youth and employ nearly 20 adults for the upcoming school year!

A special thank you for the generosity and partnership of the Moosa Family, our partners at EA-HR, HRJ and SAWA, WeWork NY, and everyone else who has made this expansion a reality! Many more updates to come throughout the summer so be sure to like us onFacebook for pictures, videos and more!

Summer Camp at Campus A


A short walk up the road from the construction site, the summer program on Campus A is in full swing. Special classes, activities, games and more are offered in a camp format to our more than 110 students every day!

Recent activities have included: gardening, soccer club, art and music, IT presentations, reading in the library, and relay races!

Our education programs are 100% donor supported! Consider setting up a recurring donation today to support teacher salaries, school supplies and more!

Ongoing Humanitarian Aid Programming


Throughout Ramadan and the summer, The Syria Fund has continued our ongoing food and humanitarian aid distributions.

  • 150+ food boxes were distributed to families in need throughout the month of June. With our partners, we delivered fresh chickens along with non-perishable items for families in advance of the Eid holiday.
  • Our successful Mother’s Day campaign raised money to bring essential hygiene kits to 100+ moms.
  • As always, we will continue to supply food, hygiene, and other critical items to families in need across Northern Jordan.

Volunteers in Action

This World Refugee Day, The Syria Fund teamed up with WeWork for two days of fundraising activities in New York City.


Across two different WeWork locations, the TSF team shared the story of The Azraq School's expansion and raised money to furnish the new classrooms! Thanks to the entire WeWork community for coming out and showing that you #StandWithRefugees!

Staying in Touch

If you’re interested in getting more regular updates from The Syria Fund, make sure to follow us on social media!


Thank you for all that you do to keep our programs going!

With gratitude,
The Syria Fund team

The Syria Fund's 2017 Annual Report

Dear Supporters,

We are proud to present The Syria Fund's 2017 Annual Report! Read on to learn about our major 2017 accomplishments and where The Syria Fund is heading in 2018.

With your support, in 2017 we:

  • Raised over $200,000 to support refugees and other vulnerable families in Jordan
  • Distributed food and humanitarian aid to over 1,000 families
  • Provided education opportunities to more than 250 children
  • Expanded our music program to reach an additional 100 children
  • Created jobs for 15 adults in Jordan
  • Registered our flagship education program, The Azraq School, as an official education program with the Jordanian Ministry of Education

As you read about The Syria Fund's major accomplishments in 2017, please consider setting up a monthly donation to The Syria Fund. Your monthly contributions allow us to better plan our humanitarian aid distributions and create new spaces for children in our education programs.

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Everything we do is possible because of your generous support! Thank you to each and every one of you for taking action and contributing money, time, and skills to make a real difference for the many refugee families we serve. 

With immense gratitude,

Lexi Shereshewsky
Executive Director, The Syria Fund

Spring Updates: A New School, Music Week and more!

Dear TSF Supporters,

Happy Spring! The Syria Fund has been hard at work making major expansions to our education programs, aligning them more closely than ever with the official Jordanian Response Plan, and reaching out to different groups, like teenagers and young adults, to broaden our impact! Read on to see what we've been up to thanks to your support.


The Stamp of Approval for The Azraq School

Over the last 6 months, The Syria Fund team has been working with the Jordanian government to register The Azraq School as an approved education program within the Official Jordan Response Plan to the Refugee Crisis. We received approvals from the local ministry of commerce in Zarqa Governorate (the governorate for Azraq), the Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Education, and finally the Prime Minister’s Office! These approvals will allow us to expand the program, hire more teachers and serve more students, and benefit from the resources and support from the Ministry of Education. Since the program is a joint project with our local partner SAWA, registration will also enhance their capacity to serve the community of Azraq. We are so proud to share with you this exciting development!

A New School with MECI for 150 Kids

TSF Director Lexi signed on the dotted line this month to collaborate on a new education program with our longtime partner the Middle East Children’s Institute (MECI). We’ll work with MECI to bring their proven remedial education and psychosocial support curriculum to 150 vulnerable children in Northern Jordan. We look forward to launching this program in the coming months and expanding our mission of making sure every child has the education they deserve! Special thanks to the Kathryn B. McQuade Foundation, the Giuliani Foundation for the Arts, Travel with Purpose, Students for Refugees and the many individuals who donated to bring this program to life!

Songs for Syrians 3rd Annual Music Week

TSF was proud to host S’Cool Sounds Director Nina Stern for the 3rd Annual Songs for Syrians Music Week at The Azraq School! Over the course of a week, students immersed themselves in music and art with courses in recorder, percussion, singing (in Arabic and English!), and drawing. The program culminated in a final performance in front of 30+ parents and community members. Music has become an integral part of our school community and our students love to express themselves through the arts! Look out for a video recap in the coming weeks!

A Skype Exchange with Canada

This month, Azraq School students participated in a Skype exchange with students at the Dixon Hall Music Camp in Toronto, Canada. The kids exchanged songs, asked each other questions, and learned about each other’s customs. It was an amazing experience for all! Read more about the exchange HERE in the Toronto Star.

New Programs to Reach Teenagers

In addition to our work with students ages 6-14 at The Azraq School, we are working to expand our efforts to reach other vulnerable groups including teenagers and young adults. The first stage was a percussion club pilot program targeting teenage boys during our music week. High school drop-out rates among Syrians in Jordan are high and several of the boys who participated in this pilot program have completely stopped attending school. Bringing them together around percussion helped them focus on communication, rhythms and concentration - valuable skills they can carry over to other areas in their lives. At the end of the program, the boys had made tremendous progress and were confident enough to successfully perform in front of 30+ community members! Stay tuned for more updates as we expand our presence through The Azraq School to reach teenagers and other community members who need it most!

Thank you for continuing to support The Syria Fund's work to reach vulnerable refugee children and families in Jordan! Everything we do is possible because of your generosity. 

Consider continuing to support our work by setting up a monthly recurring donation today!

Lastly, Follow Us On Facebook to keep up-to-date on our latest activities and goings-on!

With gratitude,

The Syria Fund team

Winter Program In Action!


From #GivingTuesday to the end of 2017, you donated to bring warm winter essentials to families across Jordan. We've been hard at work putting your money where it matters! Check out all we've done so far.


On December 21st, we provided winter coat vouchers to 177 children in East Amman.  The voucher program allows the kids and their parents to visit our local vendor to try on their new winter coats, ensuring a good fit and no waiting in line.  The kids were so excited to wear their coats home! 


On January 3rd, we brought 160 pairs of warm winter pajamas to students and other children at The Azraq School.  Check out the video of the distribution below:


TSF is distributing heaters and fuel vouchers to families throughout the winter months to ensure their homes are properly heated during the freezing temperatures, rain and snow (but hopefully no bomb cyclones!). 

We're continuing our winter emergency aid efforts through the season. Help support this important work by making a donation today!

Thank you for all you do!

With gratitude,
The Syria Fund Team

Happy Holidays From The Syria Fund!


Thank you for helping make a serious impact this year! In 2017, with your support, we:

  • Hosted education programs for 100s of refugee children in Jordan

  • Provided enhancement opportunities in music, theater, history and science

  • Distributed 1000s of critically-needed essentials like food, hygiene and winter items

  • Created jobs for more than 20 Syrians and Jordanians

Check out the video below for some 2017 highlights:

Our programs can't run without your support! 

Let's keep up the good work in 2018. Please consider giving to The Syria Fund as part of your end-of-year giving.

Let's Keep Refugees Warm & Fed This #GivingTuesday


Dear Friends,

The holiday season has arrived! As we gather this week with family and loved ones, we want to thank all of you for the incredible support that you've given to The Syria Fund this year. 

With your generosity, we've given 100s of Syrian refugee children an education for another year, instructing them daily in reading, writing, math, science, music, art and more. We've distributed thousands of food boxes, hygiene kits, and other essential supplies. And we've supported partner programs that reach vulnerable men, women and children across Northern Jordan, giving them the support they need in these difficult times. You made all of this possible! 

Look out in the coming months for our 2017 Annual Report for more details.

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Winter Items For #GivingTuesday

Heading into Winter, The Syria Fund is teaming up with our friends at the Collateral Repair Project in Jordan to bring essential winter supplies to families. With below-freezing temperatures, many refugees lack warm clothes and heaters to stay safe and comfortable in the winter months. This #GivingTuesday, will you give $50 to keep a refugee family warm, clothed and fed?

One coat for a kid: $15
Monthly food voucher for a family of 4: $50
One kerosene space heater: $42
Fuel for the space heater for one month: $15


Your Donations In Action

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Hiba's Story:
Hiba lives in a 3-bedroom apartment with ten other people, including her two children. “There are holes on our ceilings and walls, and we can’t even use one of our rooms because the rain comes through,” she says. The war in Syria hit her family especially hard, “We lived near Homs and when the army came they took men and women. The army took my husband to prison where he was tortured and killed.” They have just six blankets for the 11 members of the household, and are extremely grateful for the heater that they just received.





Jamal's Story:
Jamal and his four children left Homs, Syria in 2014. “We didn’t have heating last winter. This is the first time we have received anything,” Jamal said. “We used to live with my brother, but he went to Canada and the heater he left stopped working not long after that. We only had two blankets last winter. It wasn't enough to keep us warm.”


It is only with your support that refugees like Hiba and Jamal get the supplies they need! The Syria Fund supports thousands of refugees and other vulnerable families like them across Jordan. 

Thank you for supporting our important work. We wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

With gratitude,
The Syria Fund team

Hambone: Syrian & Jordanian Kids Learn A Classic American Tune

Watch: this Spring, The Syria Fund brought two days of music-making fun to Syrian and Jordanian students in Sahab, Jordan. Here, they learn and perform a classic American tune.

The Syria Fund partnered with S'Cool Sounds and the Middle East Children's Institute (MECI) to host two days of music making in Sahab, Jordan. We introduced the classic American tune "hambone" and had the students learn the rhythm and recorder melody, and add their own lyrics! In the end, they performed the piece for family and friends on stage!

Updates from Jordan: New School Year, New Updates!


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.

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. 


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.



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!


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.


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!


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!


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


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:

Together We Showed That We #CantDoNothing!


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
  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:

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


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 - 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!


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!

music crop.jpg

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! 


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:



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. 




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.



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!


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!

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!


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.


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! 

Lexi, Demetri, Nora & The Syria Fund team