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Hanin hopes to develop transferable skills to support Syrian refugees

Hanin (center) with college students

Since Hanin was a young girl, her dream was to grow up and support vulnerable families. This led her to work in different positions to support Iraqi and Palestinian refugees in Syria. She studied Economics at Damascus University and started the Masters degree in Social Economics where she took second place among University students in the first year. However, the Syrian Crisis became worse; people had to flee their houses and death and separation spread. Hanin made the decision to discontinue her masters degree and she joined international humanitarian organizations starting with the International Medical Corps (IMC) then moving to SOS Children’s Villages in 2014.

While working as the Project Director for SOS Children’s Villages Syria, Hanin saw people suffering from cold, hunger, and lack of food. She describes the Syrian Crisis: During the crises, you can see children sleeping behind garbage bags or even witnessing the traumatic impact of being a child soldier. Seeing children suffer from being sexually abused and how they are still fighting to find financial resources to support their crying mother and disabled father -- you can see the hope taken away from the children, you can see the loss in their eyes and you can see how their hope was slowly restored when you start working with them. [For the] children who lost trust, faith and hope, we were the light for them. We held their hands, provided them with food, a decent life, a loving home to sleep in, and access to school and health care when needed.

Her and her team worked day and night to help children reunite with their families and provided them with a home. “Developing education centers for out of school children was the best experience ever,” says Hanin. “I got the chance to see the children’s dream of going to school be achieved because of the team’s support.”

In addition to the organizational work, Hanin established community programs to support undergraduate students in Syria. This started with students who were studying Economics at Damascus University, where she got the chance to support their studies and help them overcome the trauma of the Syrian Crisis. The programs offered support in open group discussions and peer-to-peer sessions.

Child gather around a table for crafts
Children's shelter in Syria

During her humanitarian work Hanin had the opportunity to receive international trainings and wanted to use this chance to gain skills that she could transfer to her home country. These trainings led her to the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) where she was introduced to the Community Solutions Program Fellowship. The fellowship would allow Hanin to gain valuable training and experience from a local US organization. Hanin applied with no hesitation. “I saw that this will be added value for the organization, for my country, and for myself as well,” she says.

During the matching process with a US organization, Hanin interviewed with Pamela Zeller (the Executive Director of WISE) and saw that she would be joining an organization that would offer her the skills, training, and supportive environment she needed. “Working with refugees to empower them was the strengthening point and adding international experience to it with WISE was a plus to me,” says Hanin.

Hanin is excited to work with WISE’s school programs and with the Oromo Community Center where she will be educating teens about healthy relationships and helping them develop their expectations for what a good relationship should be. This is essential before taking the first step against many abusive relationships topics.

Hanin will be with WISE until December 2018 before she will then return to Syria to continue her humanitarian work. “When I get back to my country and I think about both WISE and Minnesota, I will say that every single moment was priceless. Every place I visit will be in my memory forever and every person I meet will be the smile for my future,” says Hanin. “In addition, every experience I gain will increase my professionalism and skills.

Congratulations to Hanin Omran for joining the Women’s Initiative Self Empowerment as our Healthy Relationships & Community Solutions Fellow!


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