King’s Academy, May 24, 2016 — The global Round Square organization has awarded the prestigious Kurt Hahn prize to three King’s Academy students in recognition of their work with Syrian and Iraqi refugees through their outreach project, Fikra 3al Mashi.
Named after the founder of Round Square, the prize is awarded on an annual basis “in recognition of an exceptional act of service to others.” This year’s winners, Rami Rustom ’16, Sari Samakie ’17 and William Close ’16, launched the “mobile classroom” initiative in an effort to provide education to young refugees who are seeking refuge in Jordan and do not have access to formal education.
“We wanted to go big and do something that was more than just a community service project,” said Samakie, who himself came to Jordan two years ago after fleeing the ongoing Syrian conflict. “At King’s we’re taught to think critically and deeply. We wanted to introduce that type of atmosphere outside of the school to others.”
To provide funding for the project, the trio set up an online fundraising campaign last summer on the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. In under two weeks, the amount of $US 9,000 was raised to support the operational costs of the cause, including internet usage and the purchase of laptops that would later be donated to the refugees.
“Throwing money at refugees isn’t the solution,” said Samakie. “We want to invest in ways that help people develop their education and their skills through the use of technology.”
In June they organized a pilot program in the nearby town of Madaba where displaced Iraqi children are currently being hosted on the grounds of a local church. During the week-long workshop, a group of boys (roughly between the ages of 12 and 18) were taught basic English, computer and internet research skills to help them engage in meaningful discussions about relevant social issues in Jordan, such as the role of women in today’s society.
Samakie, Rustom and Close have since held several projects following the success of the pilot, including a three-month long course for Syrian, Palestinian and Jordanian girls at a local UNRWA school and a course for traumatized refugee boys in Madaba.
The students aim to create more sustainable solutions down the line, such as computer labs, and hope to generate enough funds to purchase and transform a van into a “mobile lab” containing Wi-Fi, laptops, a white board and a projector to make education as quick and as easy as possible.
“We want Fikra to expand beyond Madaba and we want to reach as many refugees as we can, whether they’re in neighborhoods or at institutions.”
The boys will be formally recognized for their achievements during the opening ceremony of the upcoming Round Square International Conference at Aiglon College in Switzerland this October.
“None of us were expecting this [recognition] and it came as a huge surprise. We just wanted to help others,” added Rustom. “King’s teaches us that we can do anything, and this prize serves as proof that no one can really stop us but ourselves.”