x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 November 2017

Dubai firm helps Syrian refugee children’s dreams take flight

Seventy-five Syrian refugee children between ages 8 and 12 took part in the initiative by a Dubai company.

Fly for Peace kites featuring Syrian refugee children’s artwork were displayed at Dihad in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National
Fly for Peace kites featuring Syrian refugee children’s artwork were displayed at Dihad in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Becoming a doctor, an astronaut, a scientist, a teacher and an architect were among the aspirations of Syrian refugee children living in an orphanage in Turkey.

Their common dream, however, was to be all these things in their home country. Seventy-five Syrian children between the ages of eight and 12 at Ufuk orphanage in Gaziantep, Turkey, took part in an initiative by a Dubai company, drawing pictures of their hopes for a peaceful future onto kites and then flying them.

The activity was a first for all.

Fly for Peace — hosted by Bilqees Sarwar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Dubai humanitarian relief manufacturing company NRS International — aimed to shed light on the importance of education in emergencies.

Nour S, a volunteer at Ufuk, which houses more than 150 Syrian refugee children, said the youngsters were really excited to take part in an art performance.

“What was interesting is seeing them go out and fly the kites, because it was their first time,” she said. “After the field trip and when we went back home, they were out on the street refusing to stop flying their kites.”

Nour said most of the children at the orphanage were living with their mothers and had lost their fathers, the breadwinners.

“They all have access to education and we even offer the mothers, most of whom are illiterate, an opportunity to learn,” she said.

Salma, one of the children at the orphanage, said her dream was to return to Syria, where she wants to be a doctor. Farah wanted to study astronomy at Aleppo University to discover planets.

Some children, like Kareem and Fatima, wanted to be teachers and to spread the message of peace. Others, like Nour Ullah, wanted to rebuild their country.

“I want to become an architect, return to Syria, and help rebuild the country,” Nour ­Ullah said.

The children’s artwork was displayed at Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition, which finished on Thursday, at the World Trade Centre.

“The theme of Dihad this year is the effect of disasters on children,” said Oliver Freeman, corporate social responsibility executive at NRS International.

“The private sector needs to step up.

“We feel an often ignored aspect of emergencies is education in those circumstances.

“In fact, more than half of the children in UNHCR’s care, some 3.7 million refugee children, have no access to ­primary education. We wanted to use the theme of education to ­respond to the UAE’s call for private sector companies to do more in alleviating the refugee crisis.”

Mr Freeman said that art could play a big role in education in emergencies, and studies showed that it had a therapeutic value.

Nicole Malick, head of ­corporate social responsibility at NRS International, said all companies in the UAE should invest in humanitarian ­initiatives.

“We advise companies to look into the United Nations Global Compact, which is still fairly new in UAE,” she said.

“Creating new partnerships, and not just looking at one-off philanthropic donations, could be a start to getting involved.”

dmoukhallati@thenational.ae