On #GivingTuesday, a Whole Generation of Refugees Will Reclaim Their Future

For many of us, #GivingTuesday is a chance to reorient ourselves after a week of giving thanks, filling our bellies, and shopping. For my refugee friends here in Iraq, it’s a chance to imagine a brand new future—one that begins today.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a refugee. You didn’t just lose your home. You lost your identity. Your livelihood. Your sense of purpose. You’ll lose years of opportunity.

And if you belong to one group in particular, you are especially vulnerable, especially likely to fall through the cracks…

Teenagers and young adults.

You represent more than half the population of Syria and Iraq, and you have lost years of education. You were just reaching high school or maybe thinking about college when your family had to flee because of war, or when the bottom fell out due to the financial crisis brought on by war.

Your future is literally being erased before your eyes.

If you are “lucky,” you might end up in the confines of a refugee camp. But you’ll quickly discover that the barbed-wire fences meant to protect you are also cutting you off from your future. Even if you get into one of the job training programs run by the big aid organizations, whatever skills you learn will be confined to the economy of the camp. And there’s only so much opportunity to go around.

This is no way to rebuild lives. This is no way to break the cycle of violence—violence that is so often triggered by the lack of opportunity in the first place.

We can do better. Our refugee friends from Syria and Iraq deserve better.

Today is the day we do better.

This space may not look like much right now. But this is where we’ll change the story for refugees and vulnerable youth. This is where they’ll begin to see what they’re capable of—potential that’s been denied by years of war, denied by ISIS, denied by the confines of the refugee camp.

We are turning this space into a first-of-its-kind tech innovation hub for young refugees from Syria and Iraq. We’re calling it WorkWell.

This will be an education space for young women and men to come and learn new, high-demand skills—but also a place for them to collaborate together, receive coaching, and gain access to the global digital marketplace. No longer will they be forced to depend on the limited economy of a refugee camp or the goodwill of big aid organizations. They will own their future.

When they walk through these doors, they won’t be refugees anymore. They’ll be coders, designers, freelancers. That’s why we’re launching this space outside the refugee camps. That’s why you won’t see a single aid organization logo in this building.

This tech innovation hub isn’t about their past. It’s about their future.

We’re going to have three fully furnished, fully equipped classrooms. We’ll employ local instructors. We’ll provide computers and internet access, as well as transportation to and from the refugee camp. For refugee moms with no one to look after their kids while they rebuild their families’ future, we’ll offer onsite childcare.

We’ll even provide online mentorship opportunities, connecting you with our refugee friends right here in the Middle East—so you can be a tangible part of their future, too.

Nothing will hold these young refugees back, but their own drive to push themselves forward.

Today, we need to raise $200,000 to open this space and help refugees and vulnerable youth begin building their future.

Your gift will provide classrooms, computers, tables, and chairs. It will provide transportation, tuition, and childcare for students who come here to learn new skills.

It will allow us to give more than just a few hours of “skills training” and then walk away, hoping they find a job somewhere eventually.

For every student who completes their training, this tech hub will also be a place where they can put their skills to use as freelancers—earning income right here, right now. They’ll receive free membership to our coworking space, so they can build their business from the ground up. So they can collaborate with their peers. So they can receive ongoing encouragement and coaching from people like you.

Jessica speaks to our first group of students as part of a pilot project.

This is so much bigger than handing out food or water. This is about lasting transformation.

And we need you to make it happen.

I’m asking you to help us launch this space by giving today.

Whether you give $50 to provide a chair and desk, $90 to provide a month of childcare, $500 for a computer, or $2,000 to provide a year’s worth of tuition for one refugee—you can be part of turning this dream into reality.

On this #GivingTuesday, you can give refugees their future back.


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