Where are they now? 5 former scholarship students
On World Refugee Day, we’ll be awarding our 10,000th scholarship! With the support of our valued partners, including Education Above All, this achievement makes SPARK one of the largest scholarship providers for Syrian refugees in the Middle East. It’s been a long and rewarding journey so far, and as we approach this milestone, we caught up with five former students for whom access to education has helped them thrive.
Noor Jomaa: the full time accountant
Education Institution: Luminus Technical University College
Location: Amman, Jordan
Noor Jomaa enrolled at Damascus University in 2012, majoring in English Literature. However, within a couple of months, Noor and her family were forced to flee heavy shelling and travel to Jordan in search of safety, along with over 600,000 others.
After receiving a scholarship from SPARK and Education Above All to study Accounting at Luminus Technical University College, she achieved the highest grade in all of Jordan in the comprehensive exam!
Luminus, recognising her abilities, offered Noor a full time job in the finance department at the college after she graduated. Asked about her future plans, Noor says: “In five years, I’ll get my Master’s degree and start teaching my favourite subject, Accounting!”.
Mohammed Yousef Kinat: the engineering startup founder
Education Institution: University of Gaziantep
Studied: Mechanical Engineering
Location: Gaziantep, Turkey
Mohammed Yousef Kinat arrived in Gaziantep in 2013 from Syria. After receiving a scholarship from SPARK and the European Union to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Gaziantep, he went on to found his own engineering company, KED Prototyping.
During his final year, Mohammed participated in SPARK’s entrepreneurship programme supporting students with business ideas. His idea won funding, which helped him to start up KED Prototyping, which designs and prototypes engineering products simultaneously. Although his firm has only been operating for four months, Mohammed already has five clients. He also works as an engineer in a factory where he applies his skills by designing new machines.
“My father and grandfather were both mechanical engineers”, says Mohammed, so he is proud to follow in their footsteps.
Nancy AlZaghal: the hydroponic farmer
Education Institution: Palestine Polytechnic University
Studied: Applied Biology
Location: Hebron, Palestine
Nancy AlZaghal, from Hebron in the Palestinian West Bank, studied Applied Biology at Palestine Polytechnic University with a scholarship from SPARK and Education Above All. After partaking in an entrepreneurship course, Nancy won second place for her business idea to start a hydroponic farm, receiving a startup grant of $3000.
Where Nancy lives, arable land for Palestinians is shrinking and the population is growing, which is leading to a food security crisis. Therefore, Nancy’s idea to farm using water instead of soil is a particularly innovative project. The farm not only uses 90% less water than traditional farming methods, it costs less too!
“Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved to be beside the plants and the trees because I was always going to my father’s farm. I feel I am a part of this land”, says Nancy. Her studies and the startup grant has helped her to start ‘Go Green’: “I’m using the money to buy the raw materials, like the pipes, panels and nutrients, as well as hire an expert or advisor to help me with building. Thanks to the support of SPARK and Al Fakhoora, I have achieved my childhood dream and I became the owner of the ‘Go Green’ farm.”
Rasha Rafai: the full-time Teacher
Education Institution: Lebanese Al Kayrawan Institut
Studied: Nursery studies
Location: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Rasha Rifai comes from Damascus in Syria. After the security situation in her country deteriorated, she fled to Lebanon in 2014 with her family. With a scholarship from SPARK and the European Union, Rasha began technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in nursery studies at the Lebanese Al Kayrawan Institute.
She was delighted to receive a job offer to become a Teaching Assistant upon graduation, which has allowed her to grow professionally as well as financially support her parents. “For me, education is everything, it is the key to a new life.” She says that educating youth is necessary for rebuilding Syria after the war. Rasha herself hopes to return one day and use her skills to aid in the process.
Ibrahim Moslmani: the Arabic musician, teacher and entrepreneur
Education Institution: University of Gaziantep
Studied: Cinema and Television
Location: Gaziantep, Turkey
Ibrahim Muslimani always had a passion for the arts, particularly music and cinema. In 2016, having left Syria in 2012, he enrolled at the University of Gaziantep with a scholarship from SPARK and the European Union. He eventually graduated from a degree in Cinema and Television with a first class honours.
Since then, Ibrahim has begun a successful career in the arts, founding Nefes Culture and Art Association. The association grew out of his passion for traditional Syrian and Arabic music, and he currently works as a teacher at the centre, enabling him to share his knowledge with future generations. In addition, he is the founder of the band Nawa, which will soon release 40 traditional Arabic and Syrian songs.
Ibrahim was recently featured in a documentary, Wajd, which followed his journey to becoming a musician.
Since 2015, SPARK and its partners have been responding to the displacement of millions of Syrian young people by ensuring vulnerable youth, both Syrians and nationals of major hosting countries in the Middle East, receive equal education opportunities. By partnering with hundreds of education institutions, governments and local organisations in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and the occupied Palestinian Territories, we’re making sure 18-30-year-olds have brighter career prospects through higher (vocational) education.
However, our scholarships don’t stop at education. As employment conditions and job market needs vary by country, we’re building an educated, job-ready workforce. During study years, students receive extracurricular civic leadership and economic empowerment courses, psychosocial counselling and other student services, as well as financial support. Post-graduation, we offer an extensive range of career development services, such as job matching, internships, and startup and SME support for entrepreneurial students.
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