ZF Field Rep in Turkey Turned Passion for Teaching into Refugee Aid

Although the Syrian conflict has robbed Naim* of his home and many of his friends, it cannot take away his reason for living. As Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) representative in Gaziantep, Turkey, Naim has found a way to keep doing what he loves most: teaching.

As a college English professor, Naim broadened the minds of countless Syrian students over the years. As Syria descended into what is now a three-year-old armed conflict, death became a frequent visitor in his life. One of the worst moments was losing a dear friend, a medical student. When ZF staff from Chicago visited Turkey in April, Naim described his friend as intelligent and warm-hearted; someone that he had hoped his students could emulate. It was the first of many times where death came so close to him.

Realizing that his outspoken lectures had attracted the attention of the government, Naim fled to Turkey for the safety of his family three months ago. Syria was the only home Naim had ever known and he had never traveled outside its borders. Like many refugees, he is deeply homesick. “All my dreams, memories, and friends are in Syria,” he told ZF staff.

When Naim arrived in Turkey, he witnessed the tremendous generosity of the Turkish government to the Syrian refugees. But he also saw that the refugees needed more. Too many Syrian children walked the streets of Turkey without the stability they had before the crisis in Syria.  His instincts as a teacher kicked in and he decided to become a part of the solution. He decided to do whatever he could to help the children who escaped Syria.

Now he works everyday to deliver aid inside Syria and develop new programs for refugees in Turkey. The ZF school in Gaziantep is only the first of many in his mind. His goal is to get all the refugee children back into school and living as normal a life as possible until they can go home to rebuild their country.

He also takes time to teach his staff English every day. This conflict has taken a lot away from him, but his passion for teaching is still burning strong.

*ZF assigns an alias to anyone featured, quoted or referred to in a story if that person could face retribution or a loss of personal wellbeing as a result of the use of their name. ZF policy is designed to protect the dignity, privacy and safety of ZF staff and beneficiaries.

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