When Mona walked into her class to sit for her ninth-grade end-of-year exams at the UNRWA Jaffa School in Neirab Palestine refugee camp in Syria, she was in for a surprise on her desk: there was a hand-made good-luck card attached to a small gift. “Until now, when I was thinking of school, I always had memories of the war coming up. This surprise with the beautiful message is what I will carry in my heart from now-on and what I will remember from UNRWA school. I am very grateful to all the teachers who helped me to get where I am now.”
The encouraging messages and small surprise gifts are part of the “UNRWA believes you can achieve your dreams” initiative, which was implemented by the UNRWA Protection and Education teams in Syria in June 2021 through funding from the Syria Humanitarian Fund, aimed at enhancing resilience of Palestine refugees in Syria through the provision of protection and community services.
Through this initiative, UNRWA teachers and volunteers from the local community over several days and with lots of love and care prepared hundreds of hand-made good-luck cards and placed in the students’ desks along with a small gift. This was organized in three UNRWA schools in Aleppo city and Neirab refugee camp for all 415 ninth graders who passed their national exams in the North Area last June, after having spent their entire school years with UNRWA during conflict. It was the teachers’ and community’s way of acknowledging how UNRWA students have proved, over and over again, that they make the impossible possible, that it is always worth moving on and that, even in the darkest of time, doors can open again.
This year, students had been particularly anxious about their graduation exams. Many of the students had been displaced, lost family members or friends and each one has been carrying traumatic memories. Even if they were able to revise study material during support classes organized for them over the month preceding the exams, the COVID-19 pandemic largely disrupted their last scholastic year adding more stress and fears, making the already dramatic need for psychosocial support even higher.
Against this background, this initiative was well received by both teachers and students: “it was a real joy for us to show them our trust that we believe in their success,” said Mr. Ahmad Hawash, school principal at the UNRWA Acre Boys School in Neirab camp. “I will never forget the smiles on the students’ faces when they discovered the surprise, and even more when they read the messages,” he added.
UNRWA acknowledges the continued support of the Syria Humanitarian Fund to provide emergency services to the 438,000 Palestine refugees estimated to remain in Syria, of whom 91 per cent live in absolute poverty and 40 per cent remain internally displaced.