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

A Volunteer's Experience

Jonathan Skaggs, 17, spent a few days volunteering with The Syria Fund's partners in Jordan. Here, he writes about his experience: 

"Traveling to Jordan was an exciting experience for me. It was fun to visit the sites, but being able to make a difference with Syrian refugees was a whole new experience.

 Sorting clothing with HRJ

Sorting clothing with HRJ

Through The Syria Fund, my father and I spent time volunteering with refugee service agencies HRJ and the South Azraq Women's Association. We spent a day sorting donated clothes, shoes and toys from the local community in Amman. I was one of several international volunteers with a desire to make a difference in the lives of the Syrian refugees. Sorting clothes may not seem like much, but it still felt like I was making a difference in the lives of Syrian refugees. It was amazing to work side-by-side with volunteers from Jordan, Syria, Germany, The Netherlands, Brazil, Spain, England, Australia and the USA.

A few days later we all drove to Al-Azraq where we spent a day painting one of the refugee classrooms. We arrived as the students were on break from class. They ran around excitedly wanting play with us newcomers. Though we were strangers, we became quick friends. A few of the volunteers give time each week to teach an English class. The children liked to come out and practice speaking English to the rest of the volunteers. The children always had a smile on their face.

 Painting a classroom with an underwater scene in Azraq

Painting a classroom with an underwater scene in Azraq

Overall, I had an amazing time serving the Syrian refugees in Jordan. It was a wonderful experience to paint the school, sort clothes and interact with both the refugees and the other volunteers from around the world. Thanks to The Syria Fund for making this opportunity possible."

THE FINISHED PRODUCT:



June Update

Dear Supporters,

Happy June! We're excited to share with you what's been going on at The Syria Fund!

UPDATE ON SONGS FOR SYRIANS

We are off to Jordan in less than a month.  During the last week of June, we’ll be hosting Songs For Syrians, a music workshop for 105 students and their teachers at our partner school in Azraq, Jordan. The students in our program will learn to play the recorder along with basic music theory and dance.  We are especially excited to host a concert and celebration at the end of the workshop to let these great kids show off everything they’ve learned. 

Click here to learn more about Songs for Syrians.

With an emphasis on teacher training, we plan to set up a program that can grow and thrive for years to come in Azraq and at our other partner schools across Northern Jordan! 

But our program isn’t just in Jordan.  We are thrilled to have two school groups in Connecticut and New York participate in the program by learning and performing Syrian music at their schools!

 

The Syria Fund is currently raising money to purchase musical instruments, hire and train music teachers and expand this valuable arts program. 

life skills trainings

Last month, The Syria Fund partnered with MECI to host Life Skills Trainings for 200 Syrian and Jordanian teenage girls. The trainings were designed to encourage the development of leadership, community engagement and teamwork skills. 

Trainees took initiative by identifying issues affecting their communities and creating their own strategies to respond. This ranged from discussion groups to improve social cohesion and communication between Syrian refugees and local Jordanians to helping clean up their communities and bring art to public spaces. Pre and post-assessments measured the impact the course had on the trainees. We are pleased to say that 96% of these young women demonstrated an improvement in their life skills! We will continue to work with MECI to host more programs like this in the coming months. 

I really feel that since the training my Jordanian peers are more aware of the fact that we should help each other out because we have gone through trauma and so many difficulties since the crisis started in Syria. We only fled to look for peace and security. I want to say to the youth in Jordan, whether Syrian or Jordanian: Grab chances and enjoy every moment, Peace is a blessing.
— Safa, 16, Syrian

EXPANDING EDUCATION PROGRAMS

Over the past 9 months, we’ve worked closely with HRJ and WHA to set up education spaces that today host over 200 children, most of them Syrian refugees, in three tented schools and three portable classrooms in East Badia, Jordan. 

To build on the success of these six classrooms, we are now looking to expand even further to reach the hundreds of Syrian children who remain out of school in this desolate area of Northern Jordan. Our partners have identified a large house that, with the support of The Syria Fund, they will look to renovate and turn into a school that can host up to 150 children. We’ll have more information on this in the coming weeks!

updates from the border

In January, we emailed you a request for contributions to support humanitarian relief efforts for thousands of families trapped on the border between Syria and Jordan.  
As the fighting continues in Syria, more families flee to this makeshift camp on the border. Today there are nearly 60,000 individuals who are living in critical, at-risk conditions. Working with HRJ and WHA, we continue to respond to this serious humanitarian crisis by providing hundreds of food packages, hygiene items and other critical aid every month.

how you can help

Your continued support is more crucial than ever to ensure refugees have the help they need to get their lives back on track. Here are three simple ways to get - and stay - involved today. 

  1. Follow the latest updates on The Syria Fund's response to the refugee crisis
  2. Share Your Voice. Tell your friends and family (and us!) why you care about helping Syrian refugees and tag us @thesyriafund.
  3. Donate today. You'll help us expand education programs and get more children back in school, distribute desperately-needed supplies and help families heal from the trauma of this crisis.
 Supporter Beryl shares her voice at a TSF fundraiser in Westport, CT

Supporter Beryl shares her voice at a TSF fundraiser in Westport, CT

Thank you for your continued support and for all that you do!

Best,
Lexi, Demetri and The Syria Fund Team 

Meet The Teachers: Ilham

"I have been teaching here at the Azraq Community School for two years and before this, I taught for 15 years in Idlib, Syria.  I love working with children.

I used to teach the primary grades in Syria. Here I teach Grade 1.

When I first came to Azraq, the school was still just starting. I taught Syrian children of all ages. I had 35 children in grades 1, 2, and 3. I taught from 8am -12pm for one group of students and then the second group was from 12pm-4pm. Then we were able to open up another classroom. We divided the classes and got more teachers, but for 2 months I was the only teacher.

I now have 30 students in the classroom and no helper. I am capable of doing without though. I used to have 30-35 students in Idlib.

I am in need of resources, large images, posters, things to put on the board. I need books -  these are essential. They are the basics that any school needs. I want clean books with colors, not copies. It’s depressing that way. The students will react better with colorful images.

We need English teachers. We do teach them. But it’s different when a specialist English teacher comes in- they will benefit from that. I can and do teach every other subject on its own. I am even doing physical education with them.

The English classes are essential to happen on a regular basis and more than once a week and for all the classes.

There are intelligent students in my class - but Syrian children face a lot of difficulties.

I have four children, two girls and two boys. My husband is at home with my 5 year old. I have a lot of pressure in my life. My husband is unemployed. I am working at home and at work. I am tired.

Mostly, I dream of going back to Syria."

Ilham, Teacher at the Azraq Community School

Meet The Team: Molly Wagner

"I want to help the refugee children receive an education because I feel that all children deserve the opportunity to flourish and reach their potential.  My education has shaped me into the person I am today.  With ancestral ties to Syria, my heart breaks for the people living through years of war and uncertainty.   I am particularly saddened for the innocent children. It must be terrifying to be displaced from your home with no clear sense of where to go next.  My family and I intend to help families and children in need throughout this time of instability, and are proud to support all of the initiatives of the Syria Fund."

Molly, 17, Volunteer
 

Spring Update

Happy Spring! 2016 is off to a great start and we are excited to share with you some updates.

Songs for Syrians

We are proud to announce an exciting new program that The Syria Fund will be bringing to our partner school in Azraq, Jordan this June.  In partnership with S'Cool Sounds, a music non-profit based in New York City, The Syria Fund will host an in-depth five-day music and dance workshop for 100 Syrian children aged 8-15.  Music director and concert musician Nina Stern and Montessori music educator Matilda Giampietro, PhD, will share their innovative approach to the group study of instrumental music and dance with the students and teachers at SAWA using recorders and local percussion. The workshop will culminate in a concert for the wider community featuring our students, teachers, and local musicians who will perform both traditional Syrian songs and ones we bring from the U.S.  We are excited to incorporate students around the United States into this program by teaching Syrian melodies and connecting students with Syrian kids in Azraq for a cultural exchange through the language of music! Stay tuned for more information on this program as it develops! 

 Future musicians at school in Azraq!

Future musicians at school in Azraq!

Expanding Our Education Programs

In 2015, The Syria Fund partnered with the White Hands Association in East Badia, Jordan to create three tent classrooms for Syrian refugee children living in rural areas who had no access to education.  The classes have been extremely successful and we are thrilled to work with WHA to expand the program!

A recent survey of Syrian families living within walking distance of the WHA office found over 500 children ages 6-18 who are not attending any form of school. To address this massive need and build off our previous successes with the tent classrooms in East Badia and our partner school in Azraq, we are helping our partner organization WHA open three new caravan classrooms. These new spaces will accommodate up to 90 students. TSF is purchasing one of the new classrooms, paying the salary for a full-time teacher, and providing 60 students with all of the materials they need to get learning again! The new classrooms will also benefit others in the community by offering vocational training, sewing classes, and other programs for people of all ages. Your support has made this possible!  

Warm Welcome To The #CantDoNothing Community

Finally, we want to say a warm welcome to all those who donated to The Syria Fund and joined our mailing list after learning about us through #CantDoNothing, the initiative of actress Milana Vayntraub.  Milana, who is a refugee herself, was moved to act after going on vacation in Greece and realizing that as a global citizen, she couldn't stand by and do nothing while refugees risked their lives crossing to Greece in search of a better lives in Europe.  Her moving documentary about her time on Lesvos Island in Greece has moved tens of thousands to join the movement and get involved, because we #cantdonothing. The amazing support from the CDN community has enabled The Syria Fund to expand our education programs into 2017, continue our eyeglasses program to purchase prescription lenses for hundreds of Syrian kids, and extend our border relief program to provide food and necessary supplies to refugees trapped on the Syrian-Jordanian border.  

Thank you as always for your continued support - we couldn't do it without you!

Like us on Facebook to stay updated on all of our projects!

Best,
Lexi, Demetri and The Syria Fund team

Emergency Response On The Border

Over 17,000 Syrian refugees are stranded in a remote desert area between the Syrian/Jordanian border, trying to get to Jordan. The number has increased by the thousands in the last few days as the situation in Syria becomes more and more dangerous. Unable to enter Jordan due to new restrictions, their situation is rapidly deteriorating. 

Last week we sent out an urgent appeal to you asking for $3,000 to bring aid to this desperate community. You answered the call.  We are happy to report that in just three days, our supporters donated over $3,600!  That brings The Syria Fund's total support for these relief efforts to $5,600.

Since last Thursday, our partners at HRJ bought, collected, packaged and distributed several tons of aid including food, blankets, heaters, hygiene items, warm clothing and shoes.  These items were transported to the border and safely distributed to families there with the help of the Jordanian military. This was all done within one week and with zero overhead costs - 100% of all donations went directly towards this effort.

Unfortunately, 17,000 Syrians, including elderly, pregnant women, and children, are still trapped on the border. The Syria Fund will continue to respond to this emergency situation and if you would like to continue to support this specific effort, please mention "border response" in donations here

Check out the pictures below to see how far your donations went and thank you as always for your support!

Happy New Year!

Dear Supporters, 

Happy New Year!  We hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season.  It was an amazing year for The Syria Fund – we formally launched our organization over the summer and in just 5 months we raised over $75,000 that has gone directly to support Syrian refugees in Jordan who desperately need our help.  Here are a few highlights from 2015:

We supported the construction and furnishing of a new library at our partner school in Azraq, Jordan. The library now has over 1,000 books and provides a safe place to read and learn for hundreds of children. We are ensuring long term sustainability for this and all of our projects by committing to provide regular payments for teacher salaries and other logistical aid including equipment, furnishings, and school supplies so that all of our projects are impactful for years to come. 

We purchased two tents and outfitted them to serve as classrooms for over 100 children in East Badia, Jordan who had no access to education.  Today, they’re back in school!

We expanded our education initiatives and began a partnership with the Middle East Children’s Institute (MECI), a charity that runs catch-up classes for Syrian children in existing Jordanian schools, which are unused in the afternoons. We’ve committed to helping them expand their activities by supporting teachers, creating extracurricular programs, providing school supplies for all children, and ensuring that host schools are in top condition by refurbishing any run-down or damaged classrooms.

Lastly, we continued to respond to emergency needs on the ground by purchasing and distributing supplies like warm clothing, eye glasses, gas heaters, medical equipment, toothbrushes, and more with the help of our partners at HRJ.  For example, when twenty Syrian families lost everything in heavy rains and flooding in late October, The Syria Fund provided heaters, blankets, and other essential goods to get them back on their feet.

And we are just getting started. As we grow as an organization, our projects grow, our local partner organizations grow, and the communities we support prosper.

We have some exciting initiatives ahead and as we close the books on 2015, we want to say again how appreciative we are for your continued support.  December was our biggest fundraising month yet and we look forward to continuing our efforts in 2016!

Warmly,
Lexi, Demetri & The Syria Fund Team

Thoughts On Recent Events

Dear Supporters,

It has been a hard couple of weeks for everyone. First there were the heart-breaking attacks in Beirut, Paris, and Bamako.  Then there has been the increasingly hostile rhetoric focusing people’s feelings of anger and vulnerability into blaming Syrian refugees, who in many cases have fled violence as horrific as what we’ve seen recently.

As people discuss barring refugees in this country and elsewhere, many are tempted to see the plight of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey as someone else’s problem.  But there is a direct link between the situation for refugees in Syria's surrounding countries and the thousands of people risking death and spending their life savings to board a smuggler’s boat for Europe.  That is why we are continuing our work to help the refugees living in Jordan. 

Refugees will feel less pressure to leave for Europe if we can provide basic needs, including education, food packages, and access to household and medical supplies.  If Syrians remain in the surrounding countries, it will be easier for them to return to help rebuild their homeland once the violence is over.  Indeed, every single Syrian we've spoken with in Jordan expressed a desire to return to their homes and communities in Syria. 
 
Here at The Syria Fund, we know we’ve still got a lot of work to do.  With your help, we continue to focus our efforts on creating access to education for the thousands of Syrian kids in Jordan out of school and we continue to respond to emergency situations through direct giving.  This week, as we gather around the table for Thanksgiving and think of our many blessings, we want you all to know we are grateful for your continued support - thank you.

Best,
Lexi, Demetri and The Syria Fund Team

Meet our local partners!

We are back from Jordan. We had an amazing trip, made significant investments in several projects (look out for a full report coming soon), and most importantly, strengthened relationships with our partner organizations.

We are particularly fortunate to work with several qualified and inspiring women in Jordan who work tirelessly in their communities to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis.  Catherine Ashcroft, Nofa Fayz, and Zeinab al-Zubaib each run their own organizations in Jordan.  Although each of them works with different groups and use different methods, they all have the same drive, generosity, and compassion and they are all making a huge impact on the ground.  We hope you enjoy meeting our inspiring partners.

Catherine Ashcroft, Helping Refugees in Jordan (HRJ)

We met Catherine Ashcroft, director of HRJ & Mobilization Specialist for Mercy Corps International, on our first trip to Jordan in March of 2013. Catherine is English, but has been living in the Middle East with her husband and three children for the better part of the last 10 years. In 2012, she started collecting discarded items from friends and families and bringing them to communities with large refugee populations. Quickly, her two car garage became a massive sorting center, housing donations and items purchased in bulk for distribution. What began as a minor volunteer effort has blossomed into a charity that helps thousands of people.  Catherine now works with a network of local Jordanian organizations to address emergency needs and support community projects around Northern Jordan. 

 

Nofa Fayz, South Azraq Women’s Association (SAWA)

Our partner Nofa has been director of the South Azraq Women's Association (SAWA) since the 1990s, when Azraq was a small town of 9,000. Today, she serves a community nearly twice the size, including over 8,000 Syrian refugees – about 2,000 of whom are young children not in school. Around the perimeter of SAWA’s property, Nofa has been able to set up three caravan classrooms that serve 110 children through the help of partner organizations like ours and donors like you. The kids come five days a week and learn Reading, Writing, and Math. We are so impressed with Nofa and her organization and are thrilled to be helping her expand the capacity of her school by building a library on the second floor of her main office.

 

Zeinab al-Zubaib, White Hands Association

Zeinab runs The White Hands Association, a small charity located in East Badia, an area in Northeast Jordan. Many Syrian bedouins have fled the war to take refuge in this extremely rural, desert area. Zeinab and her organization find isolated groups of refugees and help respond to their emergency needs. These families are living deep in poverty and don’t have access to many basic items.  Until recently, there were no schools for over 100 children in a community nearby. Through Zeinab’s organization, we are helping to establish two semi-permanent classrooms that will host classes for these children. Zeinab coordinates with the leaders of each community to establish programs and to address more immediate needs, like winter preparation. In addition to helping build one of the tents we supplied during our recent trip, we were happy to bring over 100 winter prep packages including warm coats, scarves, hats, gloves, and milk packets and to distribute them to the sweet children that we met.  This winter, we hope to bring over 2,000 winter prep kits to Syrian children in this region.

 

We are so grateful to have found dynamic women leading organizations that work every day to make a difference in the lives of those in the most need of assistance.  Help us continue to support these valuable programs today!

Pitch the Tent

In Northeast Jordan, Syrian Bedouin communities that have fled the country live in deep poverty, far removed from any major towns and more importantly, any proper schools.  In this remote location, they cannot adequately support their families. One of our local partners, the White Hands Association (WHA) works to address the needs of these Syrians who are among the most vulnerable communities in Jordan. We are working with WHA to increase children’s access to education and provide winter clothing and milk for dozens of families.

On Wednesday, we left Amman with our cars filled with the winter supplies and powdered milk that we purchased earlier in the week.  As we got off the highway and drove east, the houses were fewer and farther between and the desert more prominent than ever.  Our goal was to deliver winter packages to nearly 100 children and to help erect two semi-permanent tents that we purchased to serve as classrooms.

Large tents will sit on top of concrete floors, furnished with carpets, desks, heaters, and solar lights. Three qualified teachers have already agreed to travel to this community to teach the children, and we hope to secure additional teachers once the program is up and running. Where there was no school, now there are two.

This is the kind of direct giving that we are proud to provide through The Syria Fund.  From an 8-year-old girl named Zahra who looked at us with a giant smile and said “thank you” after receiving her new warm coat to the group of boys who told us how excited they were to finally go to school again for the first time since leaving Syria, we can see the difference we are making. The families we visited were grateful and gracious to us and we worked together to build the tents and determine the logistics of how the classrooms will operate.  We were happy to spend time with Zainab al-Zubaid, the energetic director of WHA, and to observe the relationships she has built within the community she serves.

Although the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis are incredibly complicated and cannot be solved by any one organization, our goals are simple. We identify vulnerable communities with tangible and addressable needs and work with qualified local partners to provide solutions. We are committed to sustaining the projects we’ve worked on this week over the long term. Your continued support makes that possible.


Our visit to the Za'atri refugee camp

Imagine: you come from a place with a deep rich history and you have a warm home, a kitchen filled with delicious food, a school for your children, and green space in your town for picnics and late night strolls.

Now, your country is in crisis and you have to flee. The nearest safe place is Jordan. And as you enter, you are ushered into Za’atri refugee camp, the largest in Jordan.  There, you find a huge patch of desert converted into an emergency city.  Four years later, you are still there, in the middle of the nowhere, in a pre-fabricated house, living exclusively by handouts. This is now your life.

So what do you do? You find a way to get back some of the things you’ve lost – except that you can’t return to Syria. You find a person that you know within Jordan who can vouch for you and you leave Za’atri, knowing that once you do, you won’t be able to return.

Za’atri camp is where we found ourselves today, hosted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the organization responsible for managing the camp.  We were able to see the processing center (the first stop for Syrian refugees who want to cross the border into Jordan), a health clinic, a community center and library, and the main market of the camp, nicknamed the “Champs de Elysees” with only a slight dose of sarcasm. 

It was important to see this side of the refugee experience as we continue our work in the urban community.  The media often overlooks the fact that the majority of refugees, after being sent from the Syrian border to the camp, choose to leave. They leave because at Za’atri, they live by handouts. They live crammed next to their neighbors in pre-fabricated houses (only recently converted from tents) with little to do but look out into the desert and reminisce about their lives in Syria. Even with the robust market they have built and various U.N. programs, the refugees are just waiting to return.

But once outside of the camps, there is little support for these refugees and they often become the most vulnerable.  They are unable to work legally, face escalating rent prices, and don’t have the basic suite of services offered in the camp.  When we told the aid workers we met at Za’atri about our organization, they agreed that these are the refugees that need our help the most. 

The programs that we are supporting through The Syria Fund – providing access to education and distributing material goods – significantly reduce the pressure that families face and save them from impossible decisions like returning to war-torn Syria or taking their chances on a smuggler’s boat to Greece. 

More smiling faces!

We spent another day visiting classrooms full of young Syrian kids.  We met children who have come to Jordan from Dara'a (in southern Syria), Damascus, Homs (central Syria), Palmyra (eastern Syria), and many other cities and towns throughout the country.  In the face of so much tragedy, it is uplifting to meet students who are excited to learn, instructors excited to teach, and parents proud that their children are back in school where they belong.  We hope you enjoy this video of young students singing in a classroom in Azraq.

Tomorrow, we're headed to Za'atari, the main refugee camp in Jordan.  UNHCR is organizing a visit so we can learn more about programs offered to refugees there.  Looking forward to sharing what we learn during our time there.