June 20 was World Refugee Day, a day that the United Nations designated to “commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees”.
Last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that the number of refugees and internally displaced people has surpassed 60 million for the first time, topping 65 million. The magnitude of worldwide displacement is “unprecedented since the founding of the UN itself,” according to High Commissioner Fillipo Grandi. Surely there has never been more urgent a time to support the “immense human suffering”, highlighted in the UNHCR press release, than right now.
Currently, there are countless organization supporting refugees and internally displaced persons with immediate needs, but it is simply not enough.
This World Refugee Day, we are highlighting the work of an incredible MuslimGirl operated organization trying to make a dent in the refugee crisis through person-to-person connection. Banaat Connect (or Girls Connect) is an online language-exchange program between Palestinian women and girls in the Jerash Refugee Camp and Arabic students from the U.S. or Canada. The entire process takes place on Skype, and is changing the way we think about cross-cultural exchanges.
Founded by Hopes for Women in Education, “Banaat Connect (Girls Connect) is not only about language learning, but about building a cultural bridge between refugee women and students across the world. We have been running this program for a little over a year and we’ve seen incredible friendships that were built from their weekly conversations. Both partners are empowered and are able to teach one another through their online conversations. Banaat Connect uses technology as a means to help to separate borderlines by finding the commonality between each other and in turn help enhance their skills further,” says Noora Sharrab, co-Founder of Hopes for Women in Education.
So far, Bannat Connect has cultivated over 17 university partnerships, has connected almost 60 girls and women from the United States, Canada and Jordan, and has logged over 500 conversation hours. It has developed a strong Arabic and English curriculum, has refurbished the Women’s Center inside of Jerash Refugee Camp, and conducts trainings in a new computer lab. This Ramadan, Banaat Connect has started a Launch Good campaign to support their work, they are about halfway to their goal. You can support them here!
Participant Testimnoy: “Both of us have benefited not only from the language exchange, but also from the cultural exchange in which we’ve learned about each other’s lifestyles, outlooks, obstacles and achievements, dreams and hopes for the future.” – Summer 2016 Participant from Montréal, Canada.
A little more bit about Jerash Refugee Camp:
- Located outside of Jerash City, Jordan. About 35 miles outside of Amman.
- Established in 1968 as an “emergency” camp for refugees fleeing the Gaza Strip as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
- It is no longer an “emergency” or temporary camp. It has existed for nearly 50 years and houses nearly three-times the intended capacity of 11,500 refugees.
- Almost 30,000 people are crammed into the half-square mile Camp.
- Ex-Gazans are not considered citizens in Jordan, and remain in-eligible for public education, employment opportunities or healthcare.