The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Rebuilding Lives through Sustainable Grassroots Initiatives


Thursday, March 10, 2016, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


CMES, Room 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies presents

Karyn Thomas
Founder and Co-Director of Small Projects Istanbul

Today there are over 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey; more than half of them are children and 500,000 of those Syrian children are not in school. The future of Syria may be uncertain, but the future for students and families from Syria doesn’t have to be. Karyn Thomas will address the current crisis of education for children and young people from Syria, and the efforts to get families back on their feet, in order to help create the new generation of leaders needed for Syria’s future. The mission of Small Projects Istanbul (SPI) is to provide access to formal as well as supplemental education that will assist students and families from Syria to succeed in Turkey and beyond, paving the way for better opportunities in the future. SPI also runs a women's craft collective, the Olive Tree Women's Collective, to provide the opportunity for skills development and livelihood support, critical for those who need to support themselves and their families but don’t have the right to work. The refugee crisis can be overwhelming, but through grassroots initiatives that focus on long-term, sustainable solutions for children and families, lives can be rebuilt.

Karyn Thomas has a background in early childhood education and moved from Australia to Damascus, where she lived for four years — two before the war and two after it began — working first with Iraqi refugees and then with Syrian refugees at Yarmouk Camp. She saw first-hand the political, economic, and social collapse and its devastating impact on the community as well as the threat to the safety of her friends and their families. After relocating to Istanbul, Thomas founded Small Projects Istanbul to help build bridges so people displaced by the war in Syria can get their lives back on track.

Contact: Liz Flanagan