This article is an edited and abbreviated version of a posting that appeared earlier on SPARK’s blog.
On World Refugee Day, June 20, the international nongovernmental organization SPARK celebrated awarding its 10,000th scholarship. Three of the Amsterdam-based organization’s former students, for whom access to education was key in helping them thrive, share their experiences and what changed for them after graduation.
Noor Jouma’a: Accountant
Education Institution: Luminus Technical University College
Location: Amman, Jordan
SPARK: Noor Jouma’a on becoming an Accountant
Noor Jouma’a enrolled at Damascus University in 2012, majoring in English literature. However, within a couple of months, Noor and her family were forced to flee heavy shelling and travel to Jordan in search of safety, along with over 600,000 other Syrian refugees who are also now living in the kingdom. (See a related article, “Refugees Are Focus of New Academic Programs in Jordan.”)
After receiving a scholarship from SPARK and Al Fakhoora, a program funded by Qatar’s Education Above All Foundation, Noor studied accounting at Luminus Technical University College, where she achieved the highest grade in all of Jordan in the comprehensive exam!
Luminus, recognizing her abilities, offered Noor a full-time job in the college’s finance department after she graduated. Asked about her future plans, Noor says: “In five years, I’ll get my master’s degree and start teaching my favorite subject, accounting!”
Mohamad Youssef Kinat: Engineering Startup Founder
Education Institution: University of Gaziantep
Studied: Mechanical engineering
Location: Gaziantep, Turkey
Mohamad Youssef Kinat arrived in Turkey, which hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide, in 2013 from Syria. After receiving a scholarship from SPARK and the European Union to study mechanical engineering at the University of Gaziantep, he went on to found his own engineering company, KED Prototyping. (See a related article, “Turkey Becomes a Test Case for Including Refugees in Its Economy.”)
During his final year, Mohamad participated in SPARK’s entrepreneurship program, which supports students with business ideas. His idea won funding, which helped him to start up KED Prototyping, which designs and prototypes engineering products simultaneously. Although his firm has only been operating for four months, Mohamad already has five clients. He also works as an engineer in a factory where he applies his skills by designing new machines.
“My father and grandfather were both mechanical engineers,” says Mohamad, so he is proud to follow in their footsteps.
Nancy AlZaghal: Hydroponic Farmer
Education Institution: Palestine Polytechnic University
Studied: Applied biology
Location: Hebron, Palestine
Nancy AlZaghal, from Hebron in Palestine’s West Bank, studied applied biology at Palestine Polytechnic University with a scholarship from SPARK and Al Fakhoora. After partaking in an entrepreneurship course, Nancy won second place for her business idea to start a hydroponic farm, receiving a startup grant of $3,000. (See a related article, “Gender-Specific Training Helps Women Entrepreneurs in Vulnerable Economies.”)
Where Nancy lives, arable land for Palestinians is shrinking and the population is growing, which is leading to a food-security crisis. Therefore, Nancy’s idea to farm hydroponically, growing plants in water instead of soil, is a particularly innovative project. The farm not only uses 90 percent less water than traditional farming methods, it costs less too!
“Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved to be beside the plants and the trees because I was always going to my father’s farm. I feel I am a part of this land,” says Nancy.
Her studies and the startup grant helped her to launch her project, called “Go Green.”
“I’m using the money to buy the raw materials, like the pipes, panels and nutrients, as well as hire an expert or advisor to help me with building. Thanks to the support of SPARK and Al Fakhoora, I have achieved my childhood dream and I became the owner of the Go Green farm.”
A Focus on Jobs for Brighter Futures
Since 2015, SPARK and its partners have been responding to the displacement of millions of Syrian young people by ensuring vulnerable youth, both Syrians and nationals of major hosting countries in the Middle East, receive equal education opportunities. Its work doesn’t stop at scholarship assistance, though. It is also helping to build an educated, job-ready workforce.
During their study years, students receive extracurricular civic leadership and economic empowerment courses, psychosocial counseling and other student services, as well as financial support. And after they graduate, SPARK offers a range of career development services, such as job matching, internships, and startup support for entrepreneurial students.
Working with hundreds of education institutions, governments and local organizations in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and the occupied Palestinian Territories, SPARK’s goal is to make sure that young people have brighter career prospects through higher education and vocational training. (See a related article, “Global Partnerships Are Needed to Strengthen Education for 80 Million Refugees.”)