Finn Church Aid begins education work in Raqqa and Aleppo in Syria

Due to war lasting over a decade, Syrians are in need of extensive humanitarian aid. FCA is expanding its operation to the northern parts of the country with the support of the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF).

FINN CHURCH AID (FCA) is expanding its humanitarian work to the regions of Raqqa and Aleppo in northern Syria. 

The work focuses on improving quality of education as well as repairing and equipping schools. Additional teaching will be organised for children and adolescents, and teachers will receive further training. The work also supports the psychosocial wellbeing of pupils and teachers. On top of this, FCA also equips schools with solar panels in order to provide them with light and running water. 

Many remember Raqqa as the capital of the area captured by extremist organisation ISIS in 2014. Most of the schools in the region were destroyed or damaged during the war. ISIS no longer controls Raqqa, but the effects of that four-year period are still visible in the  area’s schools. 

“Children still live in the midst of destruction. Many of them were recruited into an extremist organisation, some saw their family members and relatives being executed. The extremist organisation demanded the closure of schools in the region, and many have been away from school for over four years. The children must be allowed to start building their future now,” notes Karam Sharouf, FCA’s programme manager in Syria. 

Children in Al Raqqa talk to FCA about their needs in late November 2022.

Money is tight and winter is coming 

Due to the war and the resulting economic crisis, families in Raqqa live, on average, on 18 US dollars a month. Humanitarian needs are already extensive, and according to estimates, people who previously fled the region are now beginning to return. In Aleppo, many former residents have recently moved back. 

“It’s been estimated that in Aleppo, there are 75 000 children who don’t go to school. There have been many child marriages recently, because marriages are a desperate way to bring families some financial security,” Sharouf says. 

Winter will only add to the hardship. Because of the lack of fuel and high prices, heating houses is almost impossible; and as income is low, people can’t afford to make purchases to prepare for winter. 

Support for children with disabilities 

Expanding humanitarian work to Aleppo and Raqqa is conducted with the support of the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF). Previously FCA has also supported education and provided emergency relief in Idlib, Hama, Homs, Eastern Ghouta, and Daraa. 

As part of the work, schooling of children with disabilities is supported. Schools have been refurbished in ways that enable children with reduced mobility to move around more easily. 

“For the first time, I feel loved and motivated to continue my education and take the first step to achieve my ambition of becoming a lawyer. Yes, I see myself as a lawyer in the future,” says Dalal (name changed).

Dalal’s family fled fighting in Palmyra, Syria, in 2015 when she was five years old. Dalal had never been to school and had physical disabilities that compounded her challenges. FCA provided specially developed catch-up classes that allow two school years of study in one.

FCA gave Dalal a wheelchair and her family cash support to buy everything she needed to access her school. The project in Hama and Homs was funded by UN OCHA Syria’s Syrian Humanitarian Fund.

Going to school is the right of every child. Noor was born without legs, which is why she has been in a wheelchair all her life.

“Yes, I’m disabled. No, nothing stops me from going to school,” says Noor. She wants to be a pharmacist when she grows up. Her home was damaged during the war, and Noor dreams of owning a house in the city. As an adult, she’d like a car that she could drive himself.

13-year-old Noor attends a school supported by FCA in rural Hama in western Syria together with her friend Foton. The school that Noor attends has recently been renovated so that it is easier to move around with a wheelchair. The project was funded by EU.

Long-term work brings results 

Finn Church Aid has operated in Syria since 2017. In addition to emergency relief, the work has focused on improving quality of education as well as water and sanitary systems of schools, and supporting livelihoods. The new phase of the operation will give 45 young people in Aleppo an access to vocational education. 

As of October 2022, FCA has refurbished a total of 43 schools together with its partners. This repair work has impacted the daily lives of over 23 300 Syrian children. 

11-year-olds Malak and Amena present their rehabilitated school in Hama, Syria. FCA supported the rehabilitation of schools with EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) funding. The project enables access to quality education for children and youth who have missed several years of school due to the war in Syria.

Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen 
Translation: Anne Salomäki 
Photos and videos: Finn Church Aid 

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