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July 1, 2021

Celebrating a milestone: 10,000 scholarships for Syrian refugees


Kubar Msho receiving SPARK's 10,000th scholarship in Erbil, Iraq

“What are your dreams and what do you want to become?” This is the question Queen Máxima asked SPARK’s 10,000th scholarship awardee, 19-year-old Kubar Msho, whose education is sponsored by the European Union.

On World Refugee Day, SPARK joined forces with Education Above All (EAA) and several other partners, to celebrate awarding 10,000 scholarships to Syrian refugees and vulnerable youth in hosting countries since 2015.

Young students and graduates joined a virtual call with Her Majesty Queen Máxima of The Netherlands, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, and member of the Netherlands Committee for Enterprise. We also welcomed a long-standing advocate of education, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of EAA to the virtual celebration. Congratulatory video messages were sent by several esteemed partners of SPARK, including His Excellency Dr. Bandar M. H. Hajjar, President and Chairman of the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB).

Queen Máxima talks with students and graduates of SPARK's scholarship programme

For Kubar, her dream is to become a famous journalist and help refugees by giving her community and Syria a voice. Kubar said: “I want to go back to Syria and build it again with the knowledge I gain”. As a Syrian refugee living in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, this scholarship has meant that Kubar is able to afford the education she was so desperate to receive. Queen Máxima said: “Kubar, many were before you – but you most certainly will not be the last and today you symbolise all those young people who have received a scholarship.”

Watch Kubar being awarded the 10,000th scholarship in Erbil, Iraq

Queen Máxima also spoke with a recent graduate, Nowar Rahmouni, to find out about her challenges and successes as an entrepreneur. Queen Máxima highlighted the impact of development: “In all my work I have seen what development actually means to people. First of all, self-confidence, resilience and spirit but also setting up networks and the possibility to help and inspire others.” 

Speaking about her own experiences, Nowar said: “Before I was totally depressed. But I found myself having the chance to be a beneficiary and here I am an alumnus.” Not only has Nowar graduated from Lebanese International University in Radio & TV, but she has also started her own small business, Gharna, selling soap products from her home city, Aleppo. “I participated in SPARK’s economic empowerment programme – this helped us to be entrepreneurs, make our business and to scale it up.”

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser speaking at SPARK's 10,000th scholarship event

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser recognised the struggle and strength of the young people. “Congratulations to all of you, despite your difficult circumstances and the added hurdle of the pandemic, your unwavering ambition is an inspiration to all of us.” 

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser spoke with graduates who have all used their scholarships from SPARK and Education Above All in extraordinary ways. After attending the Economic Empowerment programme, Jouman Najjar developed her business plan for ‘Balanced Bite’ which aims to curb high obesity rates by providing healthy alternatives to the many fast food outlets in the local area. She said: “SPARK doesn’t just stand by us financially, they give us the first steps to go to work, to open our businesses. I did so many trainings and small competitions”. 

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser expressed her hopes for the future of the programme: “I do not want this conversation to end; rather it must be a renewed beginning. These 10,000 scholarships should serve as a road map to follow, to grant new hopes, new opportunities, and new lives to tens of thousands of other displaced youth.”

The virtual event also featured speakers from partner organisations that support SPARK’s scholarship programme. The financial contribution from all these organisations makes SPARK one of the largest scholarship providers for Syrian refugees in the Middle East. Through their support, SPARK and its partners will continue to empower youth, promoting equitable access to quality higher education as a tool for reducing poverty, generating economic growth, and creating jobs in fragile and conflict-affected regions.

Find out more about the milestone and watch the full virtual event.