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Oct 31, 2018

He lost everything, and then built a school for refugees

Tent built with money from local family donations
Tent built with money from local family donations

Ahmad, a Syrian refugee in Jordan had never worked in education, rather was in the cattle and cow trade all his life. This all changed when destruction hit his home and members of his family were killed. This was when when he decided to leave Syria.

He recently told Mercy Corps his story.

It was impossible to find security—the airstrikes left no woman, child, animal, or even tree safe. Bombs fell on anything. When part of my home was destroyed, I watched from afar as a truck came and carried away my remaining furniture.

I left Syria psychologically destroyed, and my financial situation was bad. I slept in the open on the Syrian border for 10 days until Jordan received us. They were good and kind. But I had never slept in a tent or even seen one assembled. With some people’s help, we built it on farmland and lived there among several other families.

In Syria, one of my hobbies was reading and drawing posters. I love reading and writing and I love being with children‎. When I sit with children, I feel like I am living in a different world. It’s like living a dream because children are pure.

Opening a small school to teach children started as a small idea.‎ I said to my wife, “We have children, so why don’t we assemble them in one place to teach them and protect them from the heat of the sun?” My wife was very fond of the idea and encouraged me. “These children should be disciplined,” she said. It was just a simple idea, but we started to develop it, and when we decided to build the tent, we asked the families in our settlement to each pay a small amount. When we started, there wasn’t even furniture. Students sat on stones.

My goal was to teach them the basics: math, science, religion, Arabic, and English, so that when the day comes for them to enter public school, they will have an educational foundation. This is better than nothing. Public schools in Jordan won’t accept them at age 12 or 13 if they are not able to read or write.

We are close enough to the border that when I hear the bombs, particularly at night, I imagine I am there inside the explosions. Fortunately, here in the school, a great part of the stress and internal tension I have fades away. This school and these children are my safe haven. I feel like I am living in another world when I am here.

Everyday I try to think of new ideas. One day I asked the children to draw a picture of flowers, trees, or anything. Each one of them drew a picture from their imagination, and my prize to them was‎ to ‎‎hang them on the school walls. Everyone who comes here tells me they feel relaxed. My wish is to transfer my feelings to everyone who steps into this place.

We have something here that cannot be found elsewhere.

How you can help

  • Donate today. Every single contribution helps us provide even more support to Syrian families and families recovering from disaster around the world.
  • Get your gift matched. Many employers match their employees' donations, doubling your impact. Check our website to see if your donation through GlobalGiving can be matched by your employer.
  • Tell your friends. Share this story or visit us on Facebook and Twitter to read more stories like Ahmad's.

All photos by Ezra Millstein

Ahmad, 51, holding his granddaughters
Ahmad, 51, holding his granddaughters
Children meet every day to learn basics like math
Children meet every day to learn basics like math


Sep 20, 2018

How Your Support is Helping Young People Cope with Climate Change

More wildfires, hot days and extended droughts.

As climate change continues to exacerbate these problems, along with hunger and conflict, young people  - especially those living in the world's poorest countries — will bear the brunt of the impact.

Climate change compounds already fraught situations like economic instability and refugee crises. Whether it comes in the form of unbearable heat waves, harsh winters, or extreme weather, climate change undermines humanitarian efforts and creates new challenges for organizations and communities to address.

That's why we're a part of young people’s communities, working together to address their needs today while making them more resilient for what's ahead. We can’t prevent disasters and conflicts from happening, but we can ensure that young people have the tools they need to prepare for and recover from them.

Find out how we’re partnering with young people around the world to help them cope with the effects of climate change, and learn more about how you can help.

At 23 years old, Ida is the youngest female farmer in her small town of Terara, Indonesia. It’s a trade she inherited from her parents and two older brothers. Unfortunately, she also inherited shorter rainy seasons and longer dry seasons — consequences of climate change that her parents never had to face.

By 2050, total rainfall in Indonesia is expected to increase on average by nearly 10 percent from April through June, but decrease by 10 to 25 percent from July through September. As Ida gets older, she will need new to develop new farming techniques to help her adapt to a changing climate in order to continue making money for her family.

That’s why we're helping Ida's farmer group by providing training on effective farming practices, which will help them produce more and better crops, even as weather patterns become more unpredictable. As the treasurer of her farmer group, Ida is becoming one of the most trusted members in her community. As she gets older, she’ll continue to strengthen her community as she builds her farming and bookkeeping skills. Her leadership and expertise will be critical as weather conditions continue to deteriorate.

Every year, during the hunger gap, people in Niger begin to run low on food from last year’s harvest while still awaiting their upcoming harvest. These hunger gaps continue to grow in severity as climate change decreases crop yields and increases the length of time that people go hungry. Families are forced to eat only one meal per day or even less, with devastating results: More than four in 10 children under 5 years old have stunted growth. These outcomes will intensify without interventions that improve food production.

That's where the goat comes in. We gave Fatsuma, 14, two goats, which she’ll keep until the goats have kids. She’ll keep the kids and then pass their mothers on to another member of her girls safe space group. That ripple effect means young people like her are more insulated from the worst of the hunger gap. Goats are a critical part of life in Niger, providing milk and a source of income in times of need. For Fatsuma and others like her, goats will also help them gain independence and develop their own livelihoods.

Nepal is no stranger to natural disasters. Where Sushma, 24, lives was one of the areas most affected by the 2015 earthquakes; one of them leveled her home. In the immediate aftermath, we provided emergency supplies and cash. Bu our Nepal recovery work has been ongoing as natural disasters like landslides and flooding continue to threaten the country.

Some scientists believe that climate change is affecting earth’s structure, triggering earthquakes and other geological disasters, which means they will happen with increasing frequency and intensity as sea levels rise and rain patterns change. Earthquakes and landslides, already a common occurrence in Nepal, will be even more frequent.

Our ongoing efforts in Nepal provide livelihood and financial literacy trainings, and family dialogue workshops, which help women and men work together to become more resilient — before and after disasters. “I didn't know much [after the earthquake], but I took the trainings, and I realized that if I work hard I can actually do something myself,” Sushma says.

Young people will witness even more dramatic shifts in the climate as they get older. Without support, they risk losing their livelihoods, their communities, and even their lives. We must help prepare them now, before it is too late.

Together we can make sure that young people have the training and resources they need to be more resilient. As a member of the global Mercy Corps community, you are part of the solution and you help make this work possible. Thank you for your ongoing support! 

Photos by Sean Sheridan and Ezra Millstein

Ida in Terara, Indonesia
Ida in Terara, Indonesia
Fatsuma in Niger
Fatsuma in Niger


Aug 3, 2018

What happens now?

Refugees travel by any means necessary to find safety. Their journey is often long and hard, and they often do not have any information on where they are going or how long it will take to get there. An innovative app created by Mercy Corps in partnership with the IRC helps refugees find valuable information and stay in touch with loved ones. All photos: Karine Aigner for Mercy Corps.

Many refugees are as reliant on their mobile phones as the rest of us. More often than not, it’s the primary — or only — way they have to communicate.

That’s why it’s critical that we provide refugees with the tools they need — on their phones — to help them communicate with their loved ones, find information and resources, and ease the challenges they face as they get acclimated to their new homes.

Watch the video to experience the journey of a refugee and learn how our innovative information app helps them along the way.

As a refugee arriving in a new country, how do you know what to do next? Khabhrona.Info, the app we developed for Syrians fleeing to Jordan, offers that guidance and connects refugees to important, credible information about documentation and legal guidance.

Information is also available via the Khabrona.Info Facebook page, which refugees often find through targeted ads on their newsfeed. There they can message with page admins — often former refugees themselves — who will answer their questions and often provide comfort.

Necessities like food and water are still vital, too. But the sheer scale of the global refugee crisis calls for solutions that go beyond traditional aid. And mobile technology like Khabrona.Info is one of those solutions.

With more information in their hands, refugees are empowered to make better choices for themselves and their families, with a support network to encourage them along the way.

Khabrona.Info is part of Signpost, developed in partnership with the International Rescue Committee, and supported by Cisco, Google, Microsoft and TripAdvisor.

How you can help

  • Donate today. Every single contribution helps us provide even more support to Syrian families and families recovering from disaster around the world.
  • Get your gift matched. Many employers match their employees' donations, doubling your impact. Check our website to see if your donation through GlobalGiving can be matched by your employer.
  • Tell your friends. Share this story or visit us on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about the millions who need us.


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