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By Chris Niles

ERBIL, Iraq, 16 September 2013 —Nergiz Ibrahim, 29, has a composed demeanor and speaks English precisely—the result of an English degree from the University of Damascus.

This morning in Baherka Refugee Camp she’s wearing a teeshirt which marks her out as one of the volunteers who’s working with the camp’s children. 

Baherka is a short drive from Erbil, the capital of Kurdish Iraq, down a winding country road lined with wheat fields. The camp’s in the grounds of a former concrete factory, a massive structure which dwarves the tents that are now home to more than 4,000 people.

This morning the entrance of the camp is lined with visitors’ vehicles and children are waiting excitedly to greet a battery of local officials, including UNICEF partner, the Barzani Charity Foundation. The visitors are here to celebrate the opening of a new school, which will accommodate 150 students.

Nergiz is one of the reasons the school is able to open at all. She has joined several Syrian volunteers who helped to ensure that the school was set up, and that the children who live here can gain a sense of normalcy that the classroom provides.

Nergiz is happy with her new life. She says she lacks for nothing and has more freedom than she used to.

“I enjoy my life here more than Syria. For three years I couldn’t go out at all. We would stay home and watch television. In three years I didn’t see anything,” she says.

The school opens on September 22 at which time Nergiz will be in the classroom, keeping Syrian traditions alive and encouraging children’s dreams and ambitions.

 “This group is very nice,” she says. “I enjoy the experience. I want to work as a teacher.”

 

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