Refugee Assistance: From Tragedy to Triumph
Refugees & Internally Displaced People
Increase in global conflict locations, actors and fatalities has led to a catastrophic rise in forcibly displaced people worldwide every year since 2012, and an upward trend in all but two of the last dozen years. Zakat Foundation commits major human and material resources to alleviate the needs of these vulnerable families and children, both in the immediate aftermath of conflict and in the face of structural communal needs. Syria has produced the highest number of refugees at 6.3 million, with Turkey hosting 3.5 million of them. Gaza’s eight camps hold 1.3 million Palestinian refugees (of the world’s 5 million) under the auspices of UNRWA, which has permanently lost $360 million, 30 percent of its budget, to punitive United States’ cuts.
Rebuilding Homes, Restoring Hope
There’s no place like home. But devastation from war or disaster has driven 5 million to seek refuge away from their homes. Our shelter repairs and safe houses restore the security of being at home again, and the hope for a better tomorrow.
Zakat Foundation supporters have continued for a third-year sponsoring UNRWA-USA to renovate houses damaged in the 2014 assault on Gaza. In all, we repaired 218 homes with more minor damage, and 23 residences with major damage. With your help, the project has repaired 241 homes since 2016.
Safe Houses for Orphan Families
Zakat Foundation Safe Houses in Gaziantep, Turkey, are two building complexes that provide Syrian refugee widows and their 171 fatherless children fully furnished, safe, clean apartments — one apartment per family, all utilities paid. The families enjoy access to their own free health clinic, children’s outdoor playground, and art therapy studio all on the safe house grounds. The ground floor has classrooms and workshops offering daily after-school enrichment programs and vocational training including Turkish language, computers, sewing, and other programs to facilitate the children’s and mothers’ transition to a new country, empowering them to be self-sufficient.
Rohingya Culture Center
The United Nations lists the Rohingya Muslims of Burma/ Myanmar among the most persecuted people in the world*. Zakat Foundation is the charter funder of the Rohingya Culture Center (RCC), a community-based social service organization aimed at serving the needs of nearly 2,000 Rohingya refugees resettled in Chicago.
RCC serves as an indispensable social hub for the community as its members establish new lives and become part of the fabric of America, offering a diverse slate of services and activities to help refugees acclimate to their new home, including: Citizenship classes; adult ESL classes; after-school tutoring; cultural programs for children; a partnership with the Chicago Police Department for a summer soccer program; mommy & me group for moms, toddlers and school-age children; translation services; social services for obtaining social security; computer training classes; and monthly social dinners
Schools in Syria
With your generous support, we launched three new schools in Syria, a high school and two primary schools, bringing the total to eight. They employ 146 teachers and staff and serve 2,343 students. Zakat Foundation also continued its educational support programs for Syrian refugee children in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
One of Zakat Foundation’s most ambitious achievements, Zahraa University brings higher education to Syrian refugees — both professors and students — displaced by war in Turkey’s Gaziantep border province. It provides a dynamic teaching environment for academics and collegeaged students in exile. An accredited institution, Zahraa offers several degree programs in languages, applied and natural sciences, and religion. In July 2018, the University graduated its first class of degreed students, and dignitaries and academics from around the world attended the ceremony. These graduates are more than a symbol of the potential transformative power of education. They are now a powerful reality moving toward a hopeful future of equity and justice in this disrupted region of the world.
Refugee Children with Special Needs
Zakat Foundation’s Sigharuna-Kibaruna (Our Little Ones, Our Venerable Ones) free clinic in Hatay province of Southeast Turkey treated 576 disabled Syrian refugee children last year, for sensory and brain trauma, including hearing, speech, and eye organ and function problems from the war. Zakat Foundation donors support 12 staff members, including doctors, developmental and behavioral specialists, and administrators. On a monthly basis, the clinic treats an average of 300 patients, while 1,310 people are currently on a waiting list for treatment.
Amina’s Story: Turning the Lights on Again
On a recent Zakat Foundation service trip to aid Syrian refugees in Turkey, our travel team met women with incredible success stories. Stories that our donors have made possible. Here is one: Amina* was imprisoned during the war. Tortured, raped repeatedly. Not once, not twice. But more than her memory can count. They forced her son to watch. Every time he turned away they violently struck him to look back. When our staff found them refugees in Antakya, they were drowning in despair. Seeping with shame, they could not bring themselves to turn the lights on in their home, let alone go out and face the world. But, by God’s grace, we lifted them out of darkness. We held them gently by the hand and put them in our mental health programs. With time, they saw a glimmer of hope. We then enrolled Amina in our business training for refugee mothers of orphans. (See Livelihoods) We helped her refine her craft and gave her resources to start a business. Now, she enjoys the dignity of making her own living. She functions effectively in society. Today, Amina and her son turn on the lights again.
* Name changed to protect beneficiary’s privacy
Read more in our 2018 Annual Report for detailed descriptions of Zakat Foundation’s Worldwide Impact.