October 24, 2018
Lina Sergie Attar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Karam Foundation
Robert McKenzie, Senior Fellow and Director, Muslim Diaspora Initiative at New America
Moderated by Shamila N. Chaudhary, Fellow at the Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute
Founder and CEO of Karam Foundation Lina Sergie Attar recently joined the school to share her foundation’s experience on building a better future for Syrian refugee youth.
Attar briefed the audience on how the Karam Houses have been supporting hundreds of Syrian refugee adolescents on gaining world-class critical and creative thinking skills.
She shared inspiring stories of Syrian youths gaining important graphic design skills and conducting case studies to tackle real-world problems. Attar said she feels elated to have witnessed those achievements pay off. Instead of seeing themselves as a burden to society, the participating students feel a sense of accomplishment by being able to provide services to people who need them.
Attar stressed that the future of Syria is not about rebuilding its cities from the ruins of the war, but about the people. “Reconstruction really starts here. We cannot end the war in Syria…but what we can do is to change the future.” said Attar, when talking about her foundation’s ambitious goal of educating 10,000 Syrian future leaders in the next ten years.
Lamenting on the Syrian civil war that has lasted for more than seven years, Attar argued that there are still a lot of refugees who are afraid of returning home because the regime they are running from is still ruling the country. “I wish I could wake up tomorrow and find that there is no reason for the Karam House to exist.” said Attar at the end of her presentation.
Questions from the audience ranged from the social issues of unaccompanied youth, how the foundation’s mission facilitates the connection between refugee youth and local society, and whether Karam Foundation plans to build similar houses in the U.S.
The lecture and discussion was followed by a photography exhibit “The Children of Karam House: Healing and Ambition Among Syrian Refugee Youth in Turkey.” The exhibit is curated by The Big Picture, a forum that explores international affairs through arts and culture at the school’s Foreign Policy Institute.