DAMASCUS — On April 8, 2017, people filed into a humid auditorium in Atchison, Kansas for The Aleppo Crisis Benefit Concert. Local musicians sang songs about love and peace, and Nadia Schroeder gave the keynote address, recalling her youth in Syria. “Syrians are just like us,” she said, “with dreams and jobs and Facebook accounts.”
Twenty-five years ago, Schroeder’s father founded Questscope, an organization currently working to end poverty in Syria. Questscope is a social organization that partners with USAID, UNICEF, the World Bank and more local and international organizations to help thousands of marginalized youth. Questscope’s goal is to change the futures of youth in the Middle East by giving them the tools they need to be productive members of their communities.
The Borgen Project spoke with Questscope’s director of communications Rachel Stone, who has been with Questscope for almost two years.
The Borgen Project: What is Questscope doing to address the issue of poverty in Syria?
Rachel Stone: “We have 1,800 staff and volunteers in Syria that support over 375,000 people who have been made homeless by this conflict. We supply food, medicine, water/sanitation and shelter in 100 locations across Syria. We also provide psychosocial counseling, protection care for the most vulnerable and education for out-of-school children. While the war in Syria has made a focus on critical aid necessary, we were in Syria before the conflict began and want to help rebuild when it ends.”
TBP: What is Questscope doing to improve education in Syria?
Stone: “We have alternative education programs in Syria and Jordan. This program combines a safe environment designed for young people who have been through traumatic experiences with a curriculum that encourages youth leadership and critical thinking. It helps them restore normalcy in their lives and develop future goals. More than half of Syria’s population has been displaced, and many children have not only been out of school for years, but they have also experienced deep loss and witnessed the unspeakable horror. Once they’re able to reenter the classroom, it is important to focus on their academics, but it is equally important to care for each child’s emotional and mental well-being.”
TBP: What is the importance of education in solving poverty and conflict?
Stone: “One of the defining characteristics of Questscope is that we support the leadership development of Syrians and Jordanians, so they can become the change agents in their own communities. We believe that people and especially young people, who have experienced poverty and trauma first-hand, are the best people to lead the fight against poverty and conflict.”
TBP: How can people in the United States make a difference for the people living/displaced in Syria and for the refugees from Syria?
Stone: “Remember that these are real people, just like you and I, and they can be a part of the solution. Advocate for their protection and inclusion, and give to organizations that are working for and alongside Syrians.”
In 2013, Questscope adapted its preexisting mentorship program for youth displaced by the conflict in Syria. In the past four years, Questscope’s program has reached more than 3,000 youth living in the Za’atari Refugee Camp.
– Rachel Cooper