Kickstart Joy Soccer camp
Catalyst has partnered with Kickstart Joy and the Asian Football Development Program since 2017 to organize week-long intensive soccer programs for refugee youth in Jordan. Founded by former NYCFC plater Mehdi Ballouchy, Kickstart Joy brings fun to hundreds of young soccer placers while providing psychosocial support and teaching valuable social skills. In summer 2018, Ballouchy returned to Jordan with four other professional soccer players to run training sessions and games for 900 refugee children in the Za’atari and Al Azraq refugee camps. This program not only provides players with uniforms, cleats, and training, it also gives children a joyful reprieve from life in the camps while teaching them teamwork, discipline, work ethic, and structure.
One of Catalyst’s core beliefs is that programming for marginalized youth in such areas as sports and arts can serve as a beacon of hope for youth that would otherwise struggle to cope with their experiences of conflict or poverty. This belief is exemplified in Nadia Nadim, one of the participating coaches in the 2018 soccer camp and a Manchester City professional player. A former Afghan refugee herself, Nadim served as both an athletic and personal inspiration for the players participating in Kickstart Joy’s programs.
Underscoring the relevance of these programs, Catalyst has seen an outpouring of interest from a mixture of collaborators including professional sports organizations, former refugees, and private individuals that underwrite the program.
Lens on Life: Operation Za’atari
Lens on Life provides photography training for marginalized youth around the world. With initial funding from Catalyst, Lens of Life conducted a five-day photography workshop for Syrian teens in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. The workshop was followed by a gallery show of the Syrian teens’ photographs and auction at the Benrubi Gallery in New York City. Lens on Life is using the funds raised at the auction to create a year-round photography program in Za’atari, staffed by local photography instructors.
Catalyst supported Lens on Life’s youth photography workshop at Questscope, which runs a Syrian-led center for at-risk youth in the Za’atari refugee camp. Over the course of five days, Lens on Life taught 27 teenage refugee students fundamental photography skills such as framing, lighting, balance, and depth. Equipped with these skills, the students began documenting their lives in the Za’atari camp. At their final graduation ceremony, students reflected on the themes of the photographs they had composed during the week.
Following the photography camp, Lens on Life collaborated with the Benrubi Gallery in New York City to showcase and auction the students’ work. The proceeds from the auction fundraiser multiplied Catalyst’s initial funding for Questscope by over 200%, and will be used to build an ongoing photography program in Za’atari. Lens on Life will return to Za’atari in fall 2018 to set up equipment and hire local photography teachers to implement introductory and advanced programs for teens in the camp.
To read more about Lens on Life’s work in Za’atari, please visit their website here.
Sounds of Palestine
The Catalyst Foundation is proud to support Sounds of Palestine, a music school in the town of Bethlehem that aims to increase Palestinian children’s social empowerment through music. Working in partnership with Musicians Without Borders, Sounds of Palestine offers early music education in kindergarten, and a comprehensive music education to school-age children through regular after-school and summer programs. The curriculum is designed to teach musical skills as well as self-confidence and social development. Local Palestinian music teachers lead after school classes on individual instruments, orchestra, choir, and music theory for over 140 students every week. The center also offers transportation, home-cooked meals, and on-site social worker support for all children participating in the program, including many with special needs.
Sounds of Palestine began this project by teaching music education in the kindergartens of two refugee camps in Bethlehem in 2012. As those first children have grown and continued in the program, the program has grown up with them; a new class of young children is added every year. Instructors have found that by providing a safe space for instrument instruction, children build discipline and resilience, as well as technical music skills. The children involved in Sounds of Palestine’s kindergarten, after-school program, and summer camps have been invited to perform on Radio Bethlehem, in Manger Square, and at a Bethlehem school’s graduation ceremony.
Computer Lab at Za’atari Village Centre
Since 2016, Acting for Change International (AFCI) has supported local teachers at Za’atari Village Centre who provide Arabic, Math, and English classes to over 100 Syrian refugee children, in addition to literacy classes for Jordanian and Syrian adults. The Centre is located in Za’atari Village in Jordan, outside the gated perimeter of the Za’atari refugee camp. With Catalyst’s support, Za’atari Village Centre recently installed a computer lab and expanded its curriculum to include computer literacy training and IT classes for adults and children.
AFCI identified the need for this program by conducting a comprehensive needs assessment of over 100 families in the Za’atari Village. The families expressed a desire to develop their technical skills in order to advance their own livelihoods and contribute to the community. After the installation of the computer lab, AFCI began delivering computer classes to the local community in Arabic. The classes, which are open to refugees and Jordanian locals, aim to increase students’ technical problem-solving and research abilities through teaching practical skills such as using internet browsers, word processors, and email. These basic skills will not only open doors for future economic opportunities, but they will also help refugees access information about their legal rights, the local services available to them, and other educational materials for self-training.
After class hours, community members may use the lab’s computers and wifi network to address their needs and pursue other opportunities.
To learn more about Acting for Change International’s work with the Za’atari Village Centre, please visit their website here.
Syrian Refugee Kids Can Code
Catalyst is supporting a partnership between World Learning, Kano, and Kurdistan Save the Children in Iraq’s Arbat refugee camp to teach 450 Syrian refugee children ages 12-14 essential skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Using Kano’s build-it-yourself computer kits, these four-month courses aim to develop learners’ skills in technology and English, as well as their aspirations for jobs in STEM fields.
In 2018 – 2019, Kurdistan Save the Children will host students in the Arbat refugee camp for a series of four-month coding courses. The first month of the program involves a functional “English Language for STEM” enrichment course that prepares students for the subsequent 12 weeks, when they build their own Kano Computer Kits and use them to learn to code. The Kano Computer Kit is a build-your-own computer kit based on Raspberry Pi 3 and the Kano operating system. It includes customized apps that make the kit a powerful and fun learn-to-code tool that provides engaging, hands-on STEM instruction through simple steps and guided play.
Catalyst is supporting World Learning’s collaboration with Kano to tailor their curriculum for Syrian refugee students in under-resourced environments with teachers who do not necessarily have STEM or computer science expertise. World Learning has worked on youth programs in Iraq for over a decade and is drawing on its deep understanding of the educational and psycho-social challenges facing refugees to introduce and contextualize the Kano curriculum in ways that maximize the program’s reach and benefit to young people who otherwise would lack access to any form of STEM education. Kurdistan Save the Children’s Arbat-based instructors are implementing the curriculum.
Za’atari Poetry Project for Teens
The Catalyst Foundation, in partnership with Questscope in Jordan, has launched an Arabic poetry project in the Za’atari Camp for refugee teens. The goal of the project is to expose refugee youth to this important art form, both as an outlet for their creative energies and as a means of reinforcing their academic skills. Importantly, the project will give displaced students tools that will allow them to process their experiences and tell their stories through creative literary expression. Additionally, engagement with classical and modern Arabic poetic texts, as well as international poetry translated into Arabic, will offer students the opportunity to hone a wide variety of crucial skills ranging from increased literacy to textual analysis, vocabulary building, greater language proficiency, critical thinking, history, and art.
Poetry is a culturally important art form in the Arab world; its historical legacy, scope, and sophistication is considered one of the region’s and the world’s great inheritances. The Arabic Poetry Project aims to enhance refugee teens’ psychosocial development and education through exposing them to the breadth and majesty of millennia of Arabic poetry.
The project is run by accomplished poets who work and publish in the Arabic language. The initial pilot workshop in fall 2018 was developed and run by Firas Sulaiman, with assistance from Abboud Al Jabiri and Mohammed Al Naimat. The workshop was held at the Questscope Youth Center in Za’atari camp and engaged a cohort of approximately 25 students. The workshop aimed to heighten students’ interest in creative forms of both personal and collective expression and to locate art and value in the beauty of the Arabic language. Sulaiman, Al Jabiri, Al Naimat, and other poets will continue to engage with the students through a series of bi-monthly meetings and periodic master classes, which will help them develop their own writing with the goal of publishing and sharing their work.