Three Syrian students in addition to Amr are able to attend Exeter Summer School this year thanks to the partnership between Phillips Exeter Academy and The Karam Foundation, a nonprofit organization that specializes in relieving the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Since the organization was founded in 2007, it has aided many families, built over a thousand homes, and sponsored education (including leadership programs for displaced youth) for over 50 children.
Co-founder of the Karam Foundation, Lina Sergie Attar, a Syrian-American writer and architect from Aleppo, spoke at an all-school assembly on Monday, July 11th, to raise awareness about the crisis in Syria and the mission of The Karam Foundation. Ms. Sergie Attar explained that the Syrian Civil War has killed perhaps 400,000, and displaced 11 million people, half the population, creating 5 million refugees.
“Over the past five years, I, like millions of Syrians, have had to redefine what home means to me,” she said. “After losing our homes, our towns, our cities, it has been one of the most painful experiences to go through so many layers of loss,” she said, as she showed a beautiful picture of the city of Aleppo, her hometown, before it was wrecked during the war.
In response to the conflict in Syria, Ms. Sergie Attar narrowed the focus of her organization to improving quality of life for Syrian citizens, especially Syrian children. The Karam foundation developed the Karam Leadership Initiative, a program including workshops in technology, leadership, and entrepreneurship to help give Syrian children the education, care, and hope for a bright future. International experts in subjects such as architecture, sports, and coding lead workshops. A visiting journalist from The New York Times even led an impromptu journalism workshop. One journalism student who participated in the workshop became a full time journalist only two years later.
Mrs. Sergie Attar said she is always surprised by how much the students in her program surpass her expectations .
“All of these moments are seeds, seeds that we plant in a massive desert, but powerful seeds that can grow and manifest in ways that we never imagine,” she said.
Because most humanitarian aid provided by political groups is distant and outdated, she said, the power to help stop injustice rests in individuals. In this generation, people have the motivation and technology to make change rapidly.
“After five years of watching war, I don’t believe in the UN or any political body that claims to have the interest of the people at heart. I believe in people like you, people who resist and build and invent and move forward with the determination to make small changes that create waves of change.”