FOUNDED IN 2007, KARAM FOUNDATION has been striving to help people help themselves. Karam Foundation seeks to enhance the dignity and quality of life of the impoverished and underprivileged by eliminating barriers to success. After focusing our efforts on the Syrian humanitarian crisis since 2011, especially regarding the plight of thousands of displaced Syrian children, we are now developing a long-term program of entrepreneurial and technological workshops for displaced Syrian youth. In November 2014, we will launch the pilot project for this program which will serve a group of Syrian refugee high school students at a school in Reyhanli, Turkey. The Karam Leadership Program’s mission is to empower the next generation of Syrians with the tools to lead in the creation of peaceful, vibrant, and productive communities.
The urgency for this type of initiative was apparent during Karam Foundation’s most recent Zeitouna mission. Zeitouna is a creative therapy and physical wellness program designed to inspire and heal the youngest victims of the Syrian humanitarian crisis - the children. During three successful missions, our team collaborated with over 70 international mentors to lead workshops for displaced Syrian children with the following objectives: to counter the traumatic experience of conflict by rebuilding bonds between mentor and child; to rekindle inspiration and creativity; to restore confidence and self-esteem; and to reclaim the innocence of childhood.
During the Summer 2014 mission in Reyhanli, we met teenage girls who expressed their hopes to pursue higher education and professions outside the current stereotypical expectations of becoming seamstresses, hairdressers, or starting families. As refugees, these young women face countless barriers to higher education despite their desire to become professionals in their field of choice. The teenage boys face a similar plight of a stunted future of underpaid manual labor jobs and little hope for pursuing higher education or entrepreneurial opportunities. We created the “Karam Leadership Program” to empower these Syrian high schoolers with the tools to achieve their dreams.
The Karam Leadership Program will recruit an international team of successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technological experts to design and lead workshops; serving as mentors for over 300 students over the course of four days. We have extensive experience in efficiently coordinating mentors and will collaborate with our invited leaders to guarantee dynamic and impactful workshops.
The leaders of this project — Karam Foundation President, Lina Sergie Attar, and Karam Foundation Creative Director and Zeitouna Executive Director, Kinda Hibrawi — co-founded and run Zeitouna. They have a long background in humanitarian and developmental aid and have implemented their ideas on the ground with refugees in Syria and neighboring countries. Profiles on project leaders have been attached highlighting their qualifications and experience.
At present, the Karam Leadership Program has not received sufficient funding. We are requesting the Blossom Hill Foundation to provide us with a $10,000 grant towards sponsoring this program. We look forward to hearing from you regarding this project and are immensely grateful for your time and consideration. If you would like any additional information on the project, please feel free to contact us.
Lina Sergie Attar - Karam Foundation President
Kinda Hibrawi - Karam Foundation Creative Director - Executive Director of Zeitouna
The Karam Foundation Leadership Program is a pilot project designed for Syrian refugee teenagers. The program’s goal is provide these displaced youth with innovative entrepreneurial and technological workshops that will inspire and equip them to build a future for themselves. The program seeks to create a thriving social environment despite the challenges of growing up in a conflict zone.
The Karam Foundation Leadership Program will build an international team of successful entrepreneurs, business leaders and technological experts to run workshops and serve as mentors for a group of young Syrian youth who are in high school. The program will include workshops including: team-building; verbalizing and developing a tailored “life plan” for the future that details goals; technology; basic business/entrepreneurial skills; creative therapy; physical health.
The leaders of this program — Karam Foundation President, Lina Sergie Attar, and Karam Foundation Creative Director and Zeitouna Executive Director, Kinda Hibrawi — founded Karam’s Zeitouna creative therapy program for displaced Syrian children. Both directors run the Zeitouna program on the Turkish/Syrian border biannually. They have a successful track record working with refugees in Syria and neighboring countries. They met a group of teenage women in Reyhanli, Turkey last June and were struck by the gap between the students’ stark reality and their dreams for a successful future. Attar and Hibrawi left the school determined to return with an empowerment program designed for the high school students (girls and boys) and hopefully for hundreds of other Syrian youth in the future.
The Karam team has extensive experience in efficiently coordinating mentors as proven by the successful Zeitouna program. The Leadership Program is an extension of the Zeitouna program and thus will follow the same strict criteria to recruit excellent mentors and develop dynamic, inspiring, and impactful workshops. The Leadership Program’s mission is to empower the next generation of Syrians with the tools to lead in the creation of peaceful, vibrant and communities.
The Leadership Program will take place in Reyhanli, Turkey a town along the Syrian-Turkish border in November 2014. Southern Turkey is considered a conflict zone due to the ongoing, violent Syrian political conflict and massive refugee influx that has spilled across the neighboring borders such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Reyhanli’s population has more than doubled in the past two years to over 140,000 people, creating a tense social and economical environment for locals and refugees. Syrian children and youth crowd into the few schools that are open to them. Many hundreds of Syrian youth have no access to education.
Syrian refugee girls, in addition to living through the trauma of displacement, have been marginalized due to gender and the conservative cultural norms. Rather than being encouraged to continue their education, most of the girls are faced with the choice to either get married after high school or stay home and take care of their siblings while their parents work. Therefore they are not given the opportunity to grow, evolve and shine as independent individuals. The raw ambition and strong drive we witnessed first-hand with these girls who demanded a chance to “be somebody,” inspired this program.
As these hardships are not only faced by refugee girls, we will be extending the Leadership Program to serve the school’s high school boys. They will also learn the tools to create a life plan for the future and will gain knowledge about global entrepreneurial and technological opportunities available to them.
Phase I of the Leadership Program will expand the students’ horizons and outlooks for the future through practical workshops and exercises provided by the mentors. We are determined — despite the economic, social and political hardships that these teenage refugees face— to give them an opportunity to succeed and fulfill their destinies as strong leaders in the future.
Founded in 2007, Karam Foundation has been striving to help people help themselves. Karam Foundation seeks to enhance the dignity and quality of life of the impoverished and underprivileged by eliminating barriers to success. After focusing our efforts on the Syrian humanitarian crisis since 2011, especially regarding the plight of thousands of displaced Syrian children, we are now focused on three initiatives. Education, Sustainable Businesses and Humanitarian Relief for displaced Syrian refugees in and around Syria.
Karam Foundation (a 501(c)3 organization) is served by a board of nine directors from across the United States and the UAE. The organization is based in Chicago with directors running various Karam projects/initiatives from Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Dubai. The diverse professional backgrounds of the board members reflect the organization’s strengths (design, art, health, policy, communication, and management) to quickly assess and prioritize projects and campaigns. The board members are primarily of Syrian origin which has been an instrumental factor in creating a tight and trusted network inside Syria to deliver humanitarian aid quickly, directly and efficiently to Syrian families in need.
Karam Foundation has grown over the past three years to become one of the leading non-profit organizations that deliver aid and developmental programs inside Syria and for Syrian refugees. Karam Foundation is also an active member of ARCS (the American Relief Coalition for Syria) — a group of 19 non-profit organizations dedicated to relieving the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Karam has also collaborated with a number of organizations such as PCRF (Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund) and NAAMA (National Arab American Medical Association), in addition to many Syrian organizations including SAMS (Syrian American Medical Society) and SRD (Syrian Relief and Development).
Karam Foundation’s impact has grown over the last three years exponentially as we have worked hard to meet the needs of the immense humanitarian crisis in Syria — the greatest humanitarian crisis of our lifetimes. Our dedication to this cause is fueled by our determination to serve Syrian families caught in the conflict as well as our personal attachment to the country. The outcome of our dedication to creating creative and innovative programs and campaigns can be measured by increased donations every year (from over $50,000 in 2011 to over $600,000 in 2013) as well as increased number of individual donors from across the world. Our work has been extensively covered in television, radio, online, and print media including (BBC, NPR, NYT, Huffington Post Live, The National, Syria Deeply, and others).
Another measure of Karam’s success is the increase and retention of volunteers and mentors. Our Zeitouna mentors request to return to missions repeatedly as well as bringing family members to join. We have witnessed Zeitouna Creative Therapy Program’s positive impact on the children who participate and the school environment. The children express joy and cooperation while we are there as well as display a stronger sense of confidence and self-esteem after we leave — according to reports from the school administration and teachers. The children also receive full dental care and learn basic hygiene skills to promote long-term well-being. They learn how to work, play, and bond as teams in sports and art. They also learn to express their emotions through storytelling and journaling. These are lifetime skills.
The children’s families and the Syrian refugee community at large often express their gratitude for our work that gives hope to their children. Creating this long-term meaningful bond with the children and the community is our greatest accomplishment and it is what drives us to continue to develop innovative programs to serve the Syrian refugee community to the best of our ability.
DESCRIPTION OF POPULATION SERVED
Karam Foundation serves Syrian communities inside Syria (Aleppo, Rural Aleppo, Idleb, Rural Idleb, Homs, Damascus, Damascus suburbs) and refugee communities primarily in southern Turkey and Lebanon. In 2013, Karam Foundation directly impacted the lives of over 30,000 Syrian families, 15,000 Syrian children, and 8,600 Syrian women. Karam delivered over $400,000 in aid to Syrians in 2013 in the form of food distribution, seasonal aid for refugees, education programs, and sustainable business initiatives.
The Karam Leadership Pilot Program will serve 300 underprivileged Syrian teens and provide them with the tools to create a vibrant and sustainable future for themselves. The program will introduce the students to technology and business practices that will help them visualize and verbalize a tailored life plan. The program will also pair teams of students to mentors — highly skilled entrepreneurs and leaders — who will continue to advise and guide the students after the mission ends. In addition to encouraging the students to explore the possibilities of various future tracks (small businesses, product design, technology training), the program will develop higher education plans for the students who intend to pursue university degrees. Finally, focused therapeutic and health-focused workshops as well as a series of mind/body physical exercises will complete the holistic approach we seek for the students in our program.
Karam Foundation does not believe in simply giving handouts or quick, short-term fixes. Our goal is to provide the tools and inspiration needed to create the future the students envision and deserve. We do plan on providing them with a technology lab and internet access to use for the duration of the program. After completing the four-day intensive workshop and committing to developing their life plan, they will utilize this lab to continue working on the projects as teams or individually and to connect with their mentors periodically.
The Leadership Program’s vision is to create a microcosm of positive, creative energy that will spread beyond the walls of the school and expand into healing and revitalizing forces across the traumatized Syrian refugee community in Reyhanli.
We plan to continue our work along the Syrian-Turkish border and are committed to following up on all of our programming by visiting the sites twice a year and maintaining continuous contact with our partners on the ground.
For the Leadership Program in particular, in addition to following up personally on the ground during our visits, we plan on hiring a trusted on-site coordinator to provide weekly meetings for the students to make sure they are on track with their life plan. The coordinator will also act as a bridge between the students and the professional mentors who will follow the projects and students periodically. We have already interviewed the candidate for this position (she is a Syrian refugee herself and works as an administrator at the school). She is ready and capable to take on this project after we complete Phase I.
Phase II of the program will be a follow-up visit in spring 2015. We will reevaluate the students’ life plans, assist in funding promising projects after graduation, and plan the transition and funding for the students who will prepare to attend university either online or in Turkey.
Karam Foundation plans to financially sustain the Leadership Program after the pilot phase by developing a fundraising campaign that links donors to specific projects led by the students. Karam has a track record of running creative, innovative, and successful fundraising campaigns. We are confident that the students’ inspiring stories, innovative ideas, and dreams for the future will capture the interest of many individual donors and organizations.
The Karam Leadership Program cannot exist without strong collaborators: donors, on-site partners, mentors, and like-minded organizations. We will design and facilitate the program, however, the its strength and success is directly related to collaborating closely with the school’s administrators as well as our team of mentors. Collaboration, communication, and cooperation are essential elements to creating this type of multi-disciplinary and cross-geographical work. We have learned from experience that extensive planning and organizing are fundamental factors to create innovative and impactful opportunities for the students and mentors.
Karam Foundation has collaborated in the past with: The Sager Family Foundation, contact Bobby Sager, founder and president; PCRF (Palestinian Children Relief Fund), contact: Dr. Khaled Abughazala, president of Chicago chapter; SAMS (Syrian American Medical Society), contact Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president; WATAN USA, contact Kenan Rahmani, director; SRD (Syrian Relief and Development), contact Joumana Qaddour, director; Syrian Orphans, contact: Dr. Bana Atassi, director; Bihar Relief and Development, contact: Dr. Sharvan Ibesh, president; Every Syrian, contact: Ghazi Jeiroudi, founder and director (also Karam Foundation Director of Sustainable Businesses).
Evaluating the program is key to the pilot phase. We will provide detailed reports on the program’s growth and development to the foundation. We will hire an on-site program coordinator and communicating with her regularly to gauge the students’ needs and developments. Her reports on various successes, frustrations, setbacks, will allow us to reflect, seek advise from the program mentors, and course-correct quickly and efficiently. We will also implement a survey system that will evaluate the students’ goals and skills before and after the attending the program. These surveys will track the skills they have learned over the course of the program and how they plan to use these skills to fulfill their life plan. Finally, documentation of the program is a key component to our process. We will conduct video interviews with students and mentors for feedback on the program as well as to create a benchmark to measure the successes and setbacks in the future. We will also conduct a survey with our mentors to professionally evaluate the program.
The Leadership Program will also provide opportunities for the students to document their experience as part of the creative workshops which will include photography, creative writing/journaling, drawing, and film. We will provide the tools and supplies for these exercises throughout the program. These creative outlets will serve as visualization and verbalization tools for the students’ to develop their life plans as well as provide donors with a firsthand glimpse into the program’s impact through the eyes of the students they are supporting.
We have a strong network of news resources (print, online, radio and television), online social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs) and email campaigns that we will tap into for this initiative. We intend to share the stages of the program with our media resources before, during and after the trip. We plan to have a two person film crew on hand to document this life-changing experience for the girls and mentors. We will also have our professional Karam photographer with us to document the program. We have found as a result of our frequent trips that professional videos and photographs are the best forms of sharing our work to our expanding audience and supporters. Extensive documentation is also one of the most important tools to set benchmarks and create a plan to scale the Leadership Program in the future.