Karam Foundation is Dedicated to Helping Syrian Refugees Help Themselves
By: Apryl Eshelman/Arab America Contributing Writer
Batoul, a Karam House student and Syrian refugee teen, is on track to become an astronaut. She and her family fled to Turkey when she was nine years old. Karam House is one of two physical locations in Turkey established by Chicago based Karam Foundation to provide life-affirming and life-changing opportunities for Syrians who suffered some of the worst atrocities of the nine-year-old Syrian crisis. At Karam House, Syrian teens learn Turkish, access computers, art supplies, tutoring services and innovative workshops that convert these young refugees to become the future leaders of tomorrow.
Karam Foundation was founded in 2007 by a group of Arab Americans to pull their resources to research, discuss and make meaningful philanthropic gifts to well-functioning and effective non-profit organizations. The simple vision was to give what was needed to those who needed it anywhere in the world. Karam continues today with the support of humanitarians, Arabs and non-Arabs alike, across the US and around the world.
Karam Foundation is dedicated to helping Syrian refugees help themselves. It seeks to restore the dignity and quality of life for people affected by conflict by eliminating barriers to success through innovative education, entrepreneurial development, and community-driven emergency aid.
“Karam” means generosity in Arabic. As the father of one of the founders, Dr. Aly Sergie, so poignantly stated, “The ability to serve those in need is a privilege, not an obligation.”
In March 2011, Karam’s work became sharply focused. As Syrian activists joined the Arab Spring and took to the streets to demand freedom of the press and basic human rights, President Assad launched his regime’s brutal crackdown, resulting in half of the Syrian population losing their homes…or worse.
Karam’s leadership answered the cries for help by leading medical mission trips, providing life-sustaining emergency aid to the Syrian people, rehabilitating and supporting barrel bombed schools for 4,000 children in the northern part of the country, enabling entrepreneurial efforts by Syrian refugees and internally displaced people to manufacture and distribute scented soaps in the ancient tradition of the Levant, pulling hundreds of Syrian refugee child laborers off the streets in Turkey and into Turkish classrooms, opening the two Karam Houses, and awarding scholarships to high-achieving Syrian youth so they may attend university.
Karam’s work also extends to Syrian refugees resettled in the US through a unique program to promote their assimilation with the one thing that will “Jumpstart” their lives here: a car, vocational training, summer camp, and emergency support during extreme circumstances. While Karam Foundation can’t end the war in Syria, it is shaping a bright future for thousands of Syrians caught in the worst humanitarian crisis of our lifetime.
Karam’s founder, Lina Sergie Attar, and her team have achieved all of this by following a simple precept: listening and observing to learn what is needed most, and then providing it in the most collaborative way possible to empower their constituents to turn victimhood into opportunities and accomplishments.
In fact, Karam has set a goal of building 10,000 ‘Leaders’ over the next ten years. A Karam leader is a person who has benefitted from one of Karam’s programs to go on to lead a productive life, despite the setbacks and horrors of the Syrian crisis. These future leaders will one day give back to their local communities and to the world around them. Indeed, Karam House students are already using the leadership skills they learned at Karam House to create solutions and opportunities in their adopted communities. Karam enables students like Batoul to think big and realize their potential.
While COVID19 precautions have temporarily closed the Karam Houses which serve students like Batoul, Karam continues to support the vulnerable 3.5 million Syrian refugees thereby reaching out to the teens whom they serve via the youth’s ubiquitous smartphones. More critical to immediate needs, Karam is continuing to provide monthly stipends to otherwise destitute Syrian refugee families.
Karam’s scholarship recipients, like other Turkish university students, are continuing their studies on-line as mandated by Turkish public health authorities. In the US, Karam is mobilizing its donor base to reach deep to provide critical funding for those recently resettled Syrians who have lost their jobs or otherwise facing the serious health and financial consequences of COVID19.
Karam Foundation has become the best of the best of well-functioning and effective non-profit organizations. To learn more about this award-winning organization and how you can help Batoul shoot for the stars, please visit www.karamfoundation.org and click on this specific link to join others in supporting vulnerable Syrian refugees during this time of COVID19.
On behalf of everyone at Karam, most importantly the individuals and families the organization serves, thank you for your ‘Karam.’
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