Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The prolonged Syrian political conflict and its resulting violence, destruction, devastation and armed assaults, have forced 8 million Syrians to flee their homeland, most taking only their personal savings and leaving behind their professional careers, education, families and homes. Displaced Syrians have travelled to several countries around the world, with a significant number in the Arab countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkey.
Many Syrian refugees are currently living in extremely precarious and difficult conditions, finding themselves homeless and jobless. Furthermore, Syrian refugees are finding themselves feeling very isolated and in a state of survival mode, causing stress, psychological and economic problems to both themselves and their host communities.
Most displaced Syrians have never been to the countries which they have fled to and are consequently not acquainted with the new culture, customs, and context, causing it to be very challenging to start a new life. Everything from knowing the legal status of their stay to finding housing and income generating activities can be extremely challenging. Complicating the situation, there has been an increase in levels of illegal immigration of Syrian refugees primarily due to a lack of knowledge and awareness when choosing which country to migrate to and which may present the best and safest opportunities. Illegal immigration has led to the dislocation of many families, leaving many refugee children homeless and unaccompanied.
A large number of Syrian refugees are concentrated in neighboring Arab countries, many of which already have their own economic and social challenges. In these countries, many Syrians have found it difficult to integrate economically and as a consequence, Syrian populations put pressure on the resources of their hosting countries without actively contributing to the economy. This has led to much intolerance and stereotyping among the citizens of the hosting communities.
On average, a Syrian refugee spends three months depending only on his or her personal savings to cover basic life necessities in a country that he or she has newly arrived in. Many refugees surrender to a state of depression, not knowing where to go, what to do, how to act or how long they will remain with no sources of income to sustain themselves and their families. This state of being contributes to a very individualistic way of living, only thinking about oneself because basic life necessities are not being met.
Additionally, receiving direct financial aid from different humanitarian organizations often increases refugees’ sense of dependency, frustration and inadequacy as they are unable to support themselves and their families.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Ahmad is reversing the situation for refugees from being in a state of total helplessness and disempowerment to one of empowerment and productivity through harnessing and building social capital, connectivity, trust, willingness to share, and empathy. He is changing post-conflict communities from an individualistic mentality focusing only on survival to one that is fostering supportive relations based on solidarity.
Focusing on the current post-conflict Syrian refugee community and diaspora around the world, Ahmad is creating a complex network of individuals, connected to regional hubs and to each other, who recognize their own capital and talent and have a will to help their peers. Instead of traditional aid to refugee communities that only provide short-term solutions and prolong dependency, Ahmad’s work creates a cycle of support between diaspora and refugees and fosters long-term empowerment. Using online and offline strategies, he provides real-time support and solutions to connect Syrian refugees with housing, employment, education, legal advice, investment opportunities, emotional support and a cultural understanding of their host country.
Regaining their self-confidence and becoming financially independent, refugees are able to be active and contributing members of their communities, thus changing the negative perception and stereotype that refugees are a burden and only bring problems to a community. This transition opens the doors for unity, constructive exchange, and channels of mutual support.
Ahmad has plans to replicate his work, which already spans across 36 countries that have large communities of Syrian refugees, to other geographical areas and communities beyond Syrians that have suffered from post-disaster displacement.