Globally, an estimated 35 million* of the 82.4 million forcibly displaced people are children below 18 years of age. And between 2018 and 2020, about 290,000 to 340,000* children were born as refugees.
Unlike children born into families in peaceful countries, these young minds do not have a defined timeline to their mental and emotional developmental progress. They face hurdles at every step, including whether they can attend schools, and they are largely dependent on charities and donations for their daily sustenance.

Lorraine Charles, a British expatriate, wants to fill the gap. She has been using her time and expertise as a researcher to give vulnerable children and youth a chance at a better life.

She is the co-founder of Na’amal, a London-registered organisation that has been striving to upskill Syrian refugees in Turkey and Lebanon and also exploring remote work opportunities for them.

In the UAE, where she has been living since 2008, Charles — along with fellow supporters — has been running campaigns to educate children who have no access to formal education.

“It’s been four years since we started providing education programmes to children mostly belonging to Syrian and Palestinian nationalities who haven’t received any formal education. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased our reach, so instead of around 50 pupils who can be taught in physical spaces, we now have about a hundred who are enrolled in our programmes.”

Through Na’amal, Charles is working to upskill the refugee population in Lebanon and Turkey, which hosts the largest refugee population in the world. According to the UNHCR, there were 3.7 million refugees in Turkey as on the end of 2020.

This huge population of refugees can be saved from ignominy, she said, if they are provided the right kind of support and empowerment.

“There’s enough funding for primary education, but the funds start waning for secondary and tertiary education,” she said.

“I’ve researched how students are helped beyond education. One of the big recommendations that surfaced was the need to reconceptualise employment and train refugees for remote work. This was the start of Na’amal.

“I found that the organisations supporting refugees in terms of training were operating in silos. Some taught English language skills; some technical skills; and few considered soft skills. But there was no one closing the loop in terms of offering support toward employment opportunities. Refugees are being supported with soft skills to work remotely. We also work with Technical Training Partners, and try to link them to employment,” said Charles.

Her efforts have found inspiration and support in the UAE, which makes her ever grateful to the wise and visionary leadership of the Arabian Gulf nation.

*Data as on end of 2020 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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