Landmark partnership between Zakat Foundation and UNRWA USA to fund Abu Tu’ema School for Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip

Bridgeview, IL, November, 2019   The Zakat Foundation of America announced its commitment to raise $500,000 to help fund the Abu Tu’ema School for the 2019-2010 school year.

Run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the school is located in Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. In a landmark partnership with UNRWA USA, Zakat Foundation pledges to equip the entirely refugee student population with a quality education and skills necessary to thrive amidst the hardships of living under blockade in dire humanitarian and economic crises.

“By committing our support to the entire school, including its faculty, we commit to the larger community,” said Halil Demir, Executive Director of Zakat Foundation. “Secure funding for the full school year assures quality education for these young refugees, gainful opportunity for the faculty, and better stability for the Khan Younis camp.”

UNRWA’s Abu Tu’ema School provides 2,300 students ages 6 to 15, including 1,600 girls and 700 boys, complete quality, equitable, and inclusive basic education. Students also receive uniforms, supplies, and meals. The school is staffed with 68 faculty members, themselves refugees, whose livelihoods are included in Zakat Foundation’s funding pledge.

Abu Tu’ema School was one of the hundreds of schools put in serious threat of closure when the United States, previously UNRWA’s single largest donor, defunded UNRWA in August 2018. This heightened crisis prompted Zakat Foundation to step in with its newest partnership.

With Gaza’s unemployment rate sitting at around 56% due to the 12-year land, air, and sea blockade, more than one million Palestine refugees living in the tiny strip of land rely on UNRWA for services, including healthcare, food, education, and employment. In the face of rising poverty, repeated violence and conflict, severe movement restrictions, electricity and water shortages, and additional learning needs, the continuation of an UNRWA school made possible through Zakat Foundation’s funding will provide a supportive and safe place to play and learn and a sense of normalcy that is crucial to the development and wellbeing of Khan Younis’ next generation.

“Commitment to quality education is deeply rooted in Zakat Foundation,” explained Demir. “I was raised in a poor and remote community with few resources. Despite that, my mother was passionately committed to education for me and my siblings. She understood it was our way to a better life. I hold these values very close to my heart and want the same avenues of opportunity for the Palestine refugee children at the Abu Tu’ema School.” 

“We’re proud to partner with UNRWA and to support its strong track record of management, resiliency, and excellence,” said Zakat Foundation’s Head of Marketing & Communications, Amna Mirza.

A recent assessment conducted by the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), an organization comprised of 18 countries including the United States, gave UNRWA high marks for its work. It praised the organization’s ability to achieve humanitarian and development results in a challenging and resource-constrained environment in ways that reflect a well-managed organization. (MOPAN 2017-2018

For more information on Zakat Foundation’s commitment to Abu Tu’ema School and other Gaza projects, contact [email protected].

ABOUT Zakat Foundation

Founded in 2001, Zakat Foundation strives to be an exceptional relief and development organization that deploys sustainable methods and models the spirit of cooperative internationalism that is essential in an increasingly unstable world. 

The foundation’s dynamic portfolio of grant support and programming in the United States and abroad includes refugee programs, mental health services, education, disaster assistance and food assistance. Among many accomplishments, Zakat Foundation has a proven track record of successfully navigating the extraordinary complexities of centuries-old politics and cultural norms in the Middle East. 

Zakat Foundation founder, Halil Demir, its leadership and staff are guided by a strong commitment to peace, dignity and social justice. They are also keenly aware that bringing hope and opportunity to some of the most embattled regions of the world is paramount to combating unrest and radicalism.   


UNRWA USA is an independent 501c3 nonprofit that supports the humanitarian and human development work of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, through fundraising, education, and advocacy. 

UNRWA USA aims to promote a life of dignity and human development for Palestine refugees by informing the American public about UNRWA’s work and generating support for its programs in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.