“When I was a little girl, I hated my name.”
“It’s so old, the only people I knew with the name ‘Thuraya’ were all grandmothers.”
Kids teased her, she said. As a Kurd growing up in Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad, Thuraya knew what it was like to be a little different. Her people, the Kurds, were often at war with Saddam’s regime, and it didn’t always make her family the most popular.
But for the child Thuraya, ethnic tension was nothing compared to that pesky name.
“My mother couldn’t even say the name right since she doesn’t speak Arabic. I always asked her, ‘Why did you agree to this terrible old name that you can’t even say?!’”
“For years, I hated it, but then I learned what the name means: highest, brightest, farthest star.”
Thuraya smiled as she shared the name’s meaning.
“I decided then that I will love the name because it can be a goal. I would reach for this star… I can shine on people.”
Today, Thuraya is living up to her name, shining on hundreds of refugee children every day as she manages a safe space especially for them. Located in the back of a refugee camp, parents can bring their children to Thuraya’s child- or youth-friendly spaces so they can learn, play, laugh, and grow in peace—without any fear.
Children on the run from violence are extremely susceptible to all kinds of dangers like trafficking, sexual assault, or gang activity, but there are less dramatic problems that plague refugee camps as well. Education, physical, emotional, and mental health, and social isolation are ever-present concerns for refugee parents, just to name a few.
Thuraya manages this safe space as a response to those concerns, to give children what they need to grow, to feel safe, and to hold on to hope that their whole life is ahead—good things are to come. “When I live up to my name, I feel accomplished. I’m a star, not an old lady,” She laughed.