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Saturday, 24 March 2018

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TIE Supports Greek School for Syrian Refugees

By Cynthia Nagrath, TIE Staff Writer


TIE Supports Greek School for Syrian Refugees
The International Educator announced plans to support a school for Syrian refugees on the island of Lesbos, where a population of 4,500 refugees is waiting in limbo en route to Europe in what is considered one of the greatest human migration crises of our time.

A Humanitarian Crisis

Since 2015, more than a million refugees have come through Greece, with tens of thousands landing on the small island of Lesbos, which is home to 88,000 inhabitants and separated from Turkey by a 10-kilometer channel. Because of its location, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that over 45 percent of refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe in 2015 have landed in Lesbos.

Greek island of Lesbos overwhelmed by influx of refugees

This beleaguered island has the distinction of being the first stop for refugees leaving war-torn areas such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan in an effort to reach Western Europe. Currently, thousands remain stranded on the island until their asylum claims can be processed. With the Greek government struggling to handle this humanitarian crisis, which has befallen the country in the midst of its own financial and economic turmoil, this can be a very lengthy process.

Families and children become caught up indefinitely in this morass and must eke out an existence in deplorable conditions. It is no surprise that the social, medical, and educational needs of this community are great.

“The level of human suffering and conditions is such that we, as an international education program, could no longer ignore the crisis without finding a way to help,” says Forrest Broman, founder and retired CEO of The International Educator (TIE).

In order to provide that help, TIE has found the perfect partner in NATAN-International, a humanitarian aid organization dedicated to restoring dignity for refugees by offering an integrative and professional approach to displaced populations and their families. NATAN, along with the Swiss Cross organization, created the One Happy Family Center in Lesbos, which offers an innovative program in which staff and volunteers work shoulder to shoulder with refugees, not for refugees.

“Unlike other aid organizations that swoop in and provide external support, this approach empowers the refugees to utilize the skills and experience they already possess and put them to use in their temporary settlement,” said Broman. As a result, refugees are directly involved in building and operating the center, which includes a community center, restaurant, movie theater, coffee shop, minimarket, tailor, hairdresser, and most importantly, a school.

TIE will support the One Happy Family School by funding the salaries of the teaching staff as well as transportation fees for the roughly 50 students residing in the refugee camp.

Refugees helping refugees

The Education Center opened its doors at the end of April and was built by volunteers from two nearby refugee camps, with help from other volunteers. The education center is unique because its teaching staff is made up of refugees that are skilled and experienced educators in their home countries and dedicated to teaching students in their first languages and cultures of origin.

“We are refugees teaching refugees,” said Ahmed, one of the Syrian teachers. The Education Center teaches 50 K–12 students on two paths: Arabic and Farsi. This is the only schoolroom on the island where refugee children are taught in their first languages. Additionally, students are taught European acculturation, and are also offered classes in Greek and English. The school has a library, equipped with books in Arabic, English, French, and other languages, all sent by overseas donors following an online book drive.

Shared values

NATAN chairman Danny Kahn said, “We are grateful for TIE’s agreement to cover the cost of the local teachers and the children’s transportation from the refugee camp to the school. TIE is covering the wages of 11 teachers among the refugees, one Greek teacher, and the daily shuttle of the children to and from the camp.” This partnership with TIE, according to Kahn, is built on both organizations “sharing the same values of the basic right for every child to receive a proper education, in every place and time, in all situations, with respect to the child’s culture and roots.”

“We are happy to be a part of this greatly needed service of providing educational resources to the Syrian and other refugee communities in Lesbos,” said Broman. “And we look forward to our friends helping us in these efforts.”

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10/11/2017 - Cindy
Thank you Tiffany! One of the wonderful things about this school is that the teachers are actually refugees themselves at the camp. So it's refugees helping refugees so to speak.

As a result we will not be recruiting teachers for this school.
10/11/2017 - Tiffany
Thank you for this wonderful iniative. Will you be recruiting teachers for this school?

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