Roughly half of four million documented Syrian refugees are under the age of 18, and approximately 800,000 are under the age of 12, according to an October 2015 report by the Migration Policy Institute. Many of these children have severe educational, mental health and humanitarian needs, the report said.
“These children come from a world of trauma and you can see it in their faces. They have so many obstacles to get through and they don’t know how to deal with them yet,” said Kacie Forrest, founder of New Life Maternity and volunteer with Refugee Tutoring.
According to a news brief issued by the United Nations, only 48 percent of school-age refugee children have access to education. In January of this year the UN underscored the significant need for funding to support the education of refugee children when it announced an urgent fund request of $750 million, which would serve about 1 million children. The funding would be used to assist partner organizations to get school supplies and train staff to meet the growing needs of these children.
Some partner organizations have already committed to support education for refugee children regardless of the amount of funding. Strive, Syria Relief, the International Rescue Committee and Refugee Tutoring are just some nonprofit organizations that have made commitments to help refugee children around the world.
“Some of these children are supposed to read books, but how can they when they don’t even understand the alphabet?” said Forrest.
Forrest’s experience working with a pregnant refugee mother is what has inspired her to become a lifelong advocate for refugee families with children. The expecting mother and her husband fled for safety with a 1 year-old in tow after having sold their home and goods. When the woman finally felt comfortable enough to share her story with Forrest, she showed her scars from deep lacerations all over her body that she had endured while protecting her children.
“Refugee organizations need volunteers, funding and all the help they can get,” Forrest added.
According to the December 2015 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Strive, a subsidiary nonprofit organization, led successful efforts in Cincinnati and Kentucky using broad cross-sector coordination with several community leaders.
More than 300 leaders were a part of improving all parts of the educational spectrum for Syrian refugees in Cincinnati which included private and corporate leaders, city officials, school district officials and presidents of colleges and universities. Many education-associated nonprofits and advocacy groups were also involved in the efforts which, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, have shown positive trends for children within both regions of the U.S.
Gabriela Cartwright is a candidate for a Master of Public Administration degree at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. She wrote this article while taking the Media for Policy Change course offered at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.