BY LENA ABDIN, KIMYA ZAHEDI, AND ELIZABETH PARKER-MAGYAR
WASHINGTON — On Friday, November 13th, the SAIS MENA club will be hosting its happy hour, with partial proceeds going to the Amal Fund, an initiative that supports refugee youth leaders in Jordan, both in Za’atari refugee camp and in urban areas. Attendees can expect Middle Eastern food from Iran, Syria and Egypt, as well as Middle Eastern music, auction items, and artwork by Syrian artists living in the Za’atari camp.
As the Syrian refugee crisis becomes more and more protracted, Amal, which means hope in Arabic, provides tuition support for refugee leaders, most of whom have had their educations interrupted, to attend Jordanian universities, meeting the needs of Syrian students who pass high school examinations in Jordan but pay out-of-country fees at Jordanian universities. In addition to helping Syrian youth access tertiary educations, the fund also empowers them to participate in civic engagement through a program of cultural exchange with their scholarship sponsor(s), promoting mutual exchange between both communities.
One of the reasons MENA club chose the Amal Fund as a beneficiary of its happy hour is its targeted funding: $19,000 covers a full, four-year scholarship for a bachelor’s degree at a Jordanian university, including tuition and registration, books, transportation, and a living stipend. The fund targets Syrian youth leaders with superior academic records and demonstrated commitment to community engagement, like the leaders in the Syrian Youth Committee, a grassroots group that formed in Zaatari Camp, which hosts approximately 60,000 of the Syrian refugees in Jordan. Led and composed by youth, this committee has spearheaded the push within the camp to increase youth access to higher education. The Fund targets members of this committee, and other youth leaders like them, who serve as models and leaders of Syrian youth community engagement. The Fund seeks partners to provide funding for these refugee youth leaders to continue their education.
At the happy hour, MENA club will be selling artwork made by Syrian artists in Za’atari Camp, created in programming led by International Relief and Development. Proceeds from that artwork sale will go directly from the Club to the artists themselves, helping them to meet their basic needs.
Jordan is home to 700,000 of the 4 million Syrian refugees — there is a chasmic need for relief funding. Through fundraising efforts by MENA such the November 13th art sale and happy hour, one of the hundreds of organizations doing valuable work in the Syrian crisis can receive valuable support from the SAIS community. The purchase of a new keepsake can be meaningful in multiple ways.