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Global Affairs Students Help Syrian Refugees

February 22, 2016

At the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, a group of students has reached out to victims of the crisis in Syria.

Yale for Refugees” came together last summer and decided to focus on the Azraq Camp in Jordan. Home to about 20,000 displaced Syrians – including 600 children – the camp is often overlooked due to its relatively small size.

Global Affairs graduate students Stephanie Leutert (at left in the photo) and Nitsan Shakked took the lead. Both had seen the needs of refugees with their own eyes. Leutert worked with Colombian refugees in Ecuador and internally displaced people in Uganda before coming to Yale. Shakked studied the seaward migration of refugees from North Africa to Europe.Stephanie Leutert and Nitsan Shakked

With guidance from Jackson Institute Senior Fellow Emma Sky, they contacted Relief International (RI) – an NGO working with Syrian refugees in Jordan and elsewhere – to ask how they might best help. RI requested three mobile education trailers, because the children of Azraq were sitting three to a bench in overcrowded classrooms. Leutert and Shakked connected with Tom Berry (Global Affairs), who was working on a fundraising campaign with School of Management students for their “Strategic Management of Non-Profits” class. The students in both programs decided to collaborate, and, thanks to 55 donors and a matching grant, they raised over $17,000 — enough to cover the purchase and shipping of three fully furnished mobile classrooms.

Over winter break, Shakked and Leutert traveled to Jordan and met with RI staff.
“The classrooms are currently on the ground and in full use,” says Shakked. “Generally each one is used in three shifts a day, six days a week.” Boys and girls, taught separately, study math, science, and English, as dictated by the Jordanian curriculum, and also have programs in music, dance, sports, and other topics. Young adults use the classrooms to prepare for their pre-university entrance exams.

It was a wonderful feeling to know that we managed in short time to provide Syrian refugees with enriching learning spaces, particularly during the winter,” says Shakked. “Looking forward, we are hoping that this relationship between Yale and humanitarian organizations at the camps will continue. We formed meaningful connections in Jordan, and we are exploring ways to build a sustainable network.”

Shakked was born and raised in Israel. She completed her BSc degree in Earth Sciences from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and her MSc in Environmental Engineering from Tübingen University in Germany. At Yale she is focusing on international development, natural resources and conflict, water, energy, and security. 

Leutert comes from Naples, Florida, and earned her undergraduate degree at Skidmore College. Her current focus is on economic development in the Western Hemisphere.