JUSOOR mentoring program
When the first protest movements began in the spring of 2011 in Syria to demand for greater democratic and economic reform, I was hopeful that they would bring about change to the country. Alas, it was not long before those peaceful protests were brutally repressed and Syria experienced three years of absolute horror. Since the start of the Syrian Uprising, every time I read the news on Syria, all I see are horrific and heartbreaking pictures of Syrians, particularly of children severely injured or dead. The death toll continues to rise with each passing day, reaching a total of over 160 000 deaths. Brutal executions, torture, persecutions of activists, doctors, lawyers, even children, occurring on a daily basis, are a testimony to the atrocities being committed predominantly by the Syrian government and certain extremist and opposition groups. The resulting humanitarian crisis has forced four million Syrians to be displaced and three million to flee Syria to escape the conflict. Many of them now live in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, waiting and hoping for this conflict to end.
Given the magnitude of this tragedy and the complexity of this conflict, one feels completely helpless. What can we do? How can we show our support for the Syrian people?
One of the ways in which we can be helpful is by supporting and becoming involved in organizations such as JUSOOR (http://www.jusoor-sy.org/), a community of Syrians living abroad whose aim is to offer programs which are beneficial to Syrians residing inside and outside Syria. JUSOOR is dedicated to the country’s development in the form of a system which promotes democratic values, respect for human rights, freedom of speech, high living standards through education. It also advocates for the talented youth in Syria who have demonstrated a drive for learning, a commitment to academic excellence and to rebuilding their country.
Among its many amazing programs, JUSOOR has been running since 2013 an education program for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. Its purpose is to facilitate access to education either through enrollment in a public or private Lebanese school or in one of its educational centers which currently serves around 800 students. JUSOOR also organizes a summer school program whose curriculum is taught by volunteer teachers who are eager to make a difference in the lives of their students.
In addition, JUSOOR offers an online mentorship program to students living in Syria. The goal of this program is to provide assistance to students who are interested in pursuing their education abroad and to guide them during the process of applying to universities either for an undergraduate or graduate degree. Students are matched with JUSOOR members who share a similar academic background and have common interests. Once the matching has taken place, JUSOOR mentors and mentees contact each other, introducing themselves to each other and deciding on the best means of communication. The mentor is then expected to discuss with his or her mentee his or her academic goals, choice of field of study, and country where he or she would like to study. The mentor encourages his or her mentee to research programs abroad that correspond to his or her field of interest; if the mentor is familiar with any programs, he or she can relay this information to his or her
mentee. Moreover, mentors offer advice on types of scholarships, and resources that would be useful to the mentees as they seek options to finance their education.
Crucial to the mentorship program is fostering the mentee’s resourcefulness and autonomy, skills that he or she will need when studying abroad, while at the same time establishing and caring and supportive relationship with the mentee.
I have found this program to be extremely rewarding, for it has enabled me to share my insights with my mentee about the university system in the United-States relating to the application process, student life, course content, and the classroom environment. At the same time, I have also learned a lot from my mentee with regards to Syrian culture, the university system, his aspirations and future goals.
When my mentee and I had our very first email exchange, I discovered that we had the same passion for languages and teaching and that he had set his sights on studying in the United-States. It did not take long for me to see how motivated and enthusiastic he was about finding a Master’s program: Even before our first Skype session, he had already researched universities and programs that were of interest to him and corresponded to his field of study. It was truly a pleasure working with him and guiding him despite the many challenges of seeking a program that would sponsor him. I feel that being a mentor through JUSOOR has taught me the importance of being optimistic, even when it seems that there is very little hope, and of constantly encouraging and supporting my mentee.
I highly recommend this mentorship program to anyone who wants to use his or her expertise and experience to counsel and coach Syrian students who intend to study abroad and provides them with the necessary guidance to help them achieve their academic and personal goals.
If you are interested in getting involved in this organization, you can help by either donating to JUSOOR, joining the volunteer program in Beirut, mentoring a Syrian student who is planning to go to university abroad, or mentor a young Syrian who wants to develop his or her career, or just spread the word about JUSOOR’s work and the many opportunities that is creating for the Syrian community.