In summer 2015, my two friends and I performed a community assessment of the stateless Afghan population in low socioeconomic areas of Middle Eastern countries. We found that due to the economic and social disadvantages associated with statelessness, an overwhelming majority of the children at specific refugee schools participated in the informal economy where they were often exposed to exploitative situations. Thus, the Fanoos Project was born. Together, we co-founded this project and set the initiative to take action instead of helplessly standing by.
The Fanoos Project seeks to empower stateless Afghan children and orphans in the Middle East. We believe a healthy learning environment is an essential component of a quality education, and actively gather financial support from our networks and coordinate with volunteers to work together and meet the needs of this community center. Such projects include essential renovations, a health education initiative, and school beautification projects.
We spent the next year organizing a team of volunteers, and planning all of the projects we wanted to implement within the Afghan refugee community in the Middle East.
During the summer of 2016, I traveled to Al-Hassan* School in the Middle East** with a group of volunteers to help implement this project. While participating in The Fanoos Project, I was able to:
- Complete grants to apply, and receive, the Lang Opportunity Scholarship for $10,000, with Swarthmore student and The Fanoos Project Co-Founder Fatima Boozarjomehri, and Co-Founder Mariam Alrayes.
- Organize and teach art classes and English classes to students
- Paint murals for the Al-Hassan* school renovation and beautification project.
- Research and implement a plan for the health education initiative at Al-Hassan*, which included:
- a new water fountain for the students
- soap for the student bathrooms
- health class curriculum
- opportunities for the students to receive health care and physical education at a discounted/free admission at specific institutes in the area
- Organize and participate in weekly meetings with volunteers and the Al-Hassan* principal to discuss productivity and future tasks.
- Meet with NGOs with similar goals to discuss solutions and possible partnerships.
We plan to continue this project, and hope to grow not only within this community, but to impact other communities in need as well. Leading a team of volunteers in a foreign country, and working on a project that focuses on volunteer work, human rights, and elementary education has helped me develop skills that impact my personal and career life in a positive manner. This life-changing experience that I had the opportunity to take part in is irreplaceable, and I am committed to improving and expanding this project until its services are no longer needed.
*School name has been changed to protect students and faculty involved
**Undisclosed Middle Eastern country to protect those involved in the Fanoos Project