By Yasmine Saker
Six years of conflict and displacement have prevented young people from engaging meaningfully in their communities.
To build the capacity of #youth affected by the conflict in #Syria and help them reach their full potential, @UNICEF joined hands with Institut Européen de Coopération et de Développement on a livelihoods, seed funding and #entrepreneurship programme. “Empowered and skilled adolescents and youth are critical for the future of Syria. The programme shapes the skills of youth to identify, analyze and understand their community’s challenges and problems,” said Mads Sorensen, UNICEF’s Chief of Youth & Adolescent Development in Syria.
“It also provides girls and boys with the training, coaching and mentorship needed to develop social and business entrepreneurship initiatives that address the most pressing challenges in their communities,” He added.
Over 400 children and young people, between 10 to 24 years-old, participated in core training on entrepreneurship and civic engagement that concluded in the presentation of innovative youth-driven proposals for an identified community’s need.
At the end of the training, 59 youth presented projects in front of a committee that included representatives from IECD, Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), Syrian Exporters Federation (SEF) and UNICEF.
Of these proposals, 13 initiatives received seed funding to help kick-start their projects and turn them into reality.
Meet some of them and get inspired!
George (right) and Rawad are colleagues, best-friends and now business partners!
The two young men who both studied mechanical engineering, developed a social business proposal to start “The Academic Center for Maintenance and Training”; a car repair workshop where students can get hands-on experience and practice their technical knowledge and make themselves more attractive to employers after graduation.
“We developed the idea from our own experience,” said George. “We graduated from university with a degree in engineering but with no practical knowledge. We want to help other students get experience while creating a professional, cost-efficient car maintenance workshop where well-trained engineering students will use all their problem-solving skills to fix your car!” he added.
George and Rawad are striving passionately to make an impact in their community.
“We don’t want to be forced to leave our country to find work opportunities,” said Rawad, emphasizing the need for youth-led social businesses. “We want to stay here, start a successful business and contribute to rebuilding our society.”
23 year-old Leen co-developed a prototype of “Tabeeb” a mobile app that allows patients to easily schedule doctor appointments, get notifications in case of sudden delays or changes and receive daily medical advice.
“Social media has become a part of everyone’s daily life,” said Leen with her usual confidence. “We give patients- especially those with hectic schedules who cannot afford to lose time waiting at clinics- the chance to control their time better.”
The livelihood, entrepreneurship and seed-funding programme helped Leen improve her skills and increase her knowledge on the subject.
“Having a programme like this supporting entrepreneurs is a positive step for Syrian youth who have been broken by the war,” she said.
“We deserve this support because we’re a creative community who only need guidance to reach our full potential.”
21 year-old Yasmine, a student of agricultural engineering, was displaced with her family from Deir-ez-Zor in northeastern Syria because of violence that also forced to interrupt her studies. Yasmine came up with a project proposal close to UNICEF’s heart; “Our education, our light” is an interactive social educational programme designed for out-of-school children. The programme prepares students to re-enroll in school through UNICEF’s “Curriculum B” which allows them to complete two years of schooling in one.
“I’ve met students in Curriculum B who have been out of school for so long that they forgot how to hold a pen correctly, let alone understand what they’re studying!” said Yasmine, explaining the inspiration behind her proposal.
“Through specially designed recreational and educational activities, the programme helps children transition back into the academic sphere- at which point they enroll in the ‘Curriculum B’ programme,” she added.
Yasmine has always been passionate about helping others learn. Back in Deir-ez-Zor, with help from her mother who is a teacher, she used to teach illiterate children working in the fields how to read and write.
“I always tell myself: you can’t live a comfortable life knowing that the children of your country are suffering. Education is a right for every child and it’s our duty to help raise an educated, talented generation.”