LETTERS TO ZA'ATARI

Letters from Austin to Za’atari Refugee Camp

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Austin, TX: On September 20, 2013 COHI hosted 15 students from the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. The impetus for the event was the “Great Day of Service” that the school holds annually. COHI proposed a letter writing campaign in which students would write a letter to a girl of the same age living at the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, Za’atari. COHI plans to deliver the letters to Za’atari during a delegation that they are leading in November 2013.

The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders places an emphasis on helping build an equitable global community. “This project illuminates how important it is to understand the global community,” said Amanda Longtain, Project Specialist at the school. “It is possible to become self-consumed but in looking at the global community you realize that gratitude and humility are incredibly important virtues.”

In Syria, destruction of crucial infrastructures has left more than two million persons lacking basic social services, displaced, and hungry. Conflict in Syria has passed into its second year and is likely to continue beyond 2013. An estimated four million people have been affected, more than half of which are children. Approximately 70,000 people have died since uprisings began.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this project. Bringing this small piece of hope into the refugee camp will mean a lot to the girls who read these letters,” said Sera Bonds, founder of COHI. “It will also provide a pathway for the Ann Richards students to connect with this timely global issue in a deeply personal format, and participate actively with the world into which they are coming of age.”

During the event, students were shown a presentation from COHI staff about the conflict, including videos about what life is like for a girl living in the camp. There was also an interactive discussion to facilitate an understanding of what these young refugees’ lives might be like and how they might be feeling. After two hours of engaging in the topic, the students spent the final hour of the event crafting their letters.

Another part of the event included the letters being translated into Arabic. As the students finished a page, each was translated onto the bottom portion of the piece of paper. During this time, the translator engaged the students in conversation about her life, perspectives and experiences living in Egypt.

The event was an inspired gathering that produced an act of peace, empathy and kindness. The initiative goals are to host another gathering at Za’atari when the delegation visits, where 15 teenage girls in the camp will have the opportunity to respond to the letters they received. Those letters will then be delivered to the students at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. This simple act aims to create a bond among the two groups, and result in increased global understanding, compassion & awareness.

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