The Saïd Foundation: Continuous Efforts for Supporting Syrian Refugees’ Futures and Self-Reliance 

UK for UNHCR and the Saïd Foundation visit Jordan and Lebanon


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UNHCR DAFI Scholar Mohammad, 18, photographed in Jordan. © UNHCR/Mohammad Hawari

Ahmed, a young Syrian refugee, had to face tough odds in his quest for higher education. After being attacked and losing his leg because he refused to join the army in Syria, Ahmed managed to get safely to Lebanon. He spent a couple of years in recovery and decided later to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer.  

In his thirties, Ahmed is older than UNHCR’s usual DAFI Scholarship criteria, but he persisted and after explaining his situation an exception was made. Ahmed secured a scholarship to study law and he’s planning to give back to his community by helping and representing other Syrian refugees. 

Ahmed is one of many other Syrian refugee university scholars who were supported by UNHCR’s DAFI Programme. The DAFI scholarship programme offers qualified refugee and returnee students the possibility to earn an undergraduate degree in their country of asylum or home country. The Saïd Foundation, a long-term UK for UNHCR partner, helped to launch the programme in Lebanon and is the largest private donor globally.  

Earlier this year, UK for UNHCR and their partner the Saïd Foundation visited Jordan and Lebanon to meet with several UNHCR-supported university scholars as well as Syrian participants in a livelihood project in Amman, Jordan.  

UK for UNHCR and the Saïd Foundation meeting with DAFI university scholars in Lebanon – including Ahmed (right).

In Lebanon, the group met with several Syrian refugee university scholars from UNHCR’s DAFI Programme, who shared their inspiring stories about their journeys, aspirations, and the challenges they face at university, such as teacher strikes, hyperinflation, power outages, and rising transportation costs.  

The visit involved the CEOs of UK for UNHCR and the Saïd Foundation; Emma Cherniavsky and Catherine Thomé, accompanied by Rasha Saïd Khawaja, Deputy Chair of the Foundation. The group heard from the scholars and participants about the impact of the Foundation’s support, the barriers facing Syrian refugees in the region, and their hopes and dreams for the future. 

The Saïd Foundation met DAFI scholars and volunteers Yara and Shamis when they visited the Janah Educational and Social Centre in Beirut. The Janah Centre provides supplemental education, psychosocial support and personal development activities to both Lebanese and refugee children and their families. Recently, the Centre has also begun distributing food parcels to help the growing number of parents struggling to feed their families as the economic crisis in Lebanon intensifies. 

Meeting UNHCR’s DAFI university scholars, Yara and Shamis, who are currently volunteering in the Janah Centre.

In Jordan, the long-term partners met with several participants of a livelihoods project that is run together with the Jordan River Foundation, to find out more about the impact it has had on Syrian refugees. The livelihood and financial inclusion project strives to empower refugees and support them in becoming more resilient and self-reliant through vocational training and offering start-up grants from the micro-loan programme. The group visited Salem, a Syrian refugee, who received vocational training and a small grant to start growing crops through a hydroponic home farm.  

“It’s been inspiring to meet much talent, resilience and determination in UNHCR’s DAFI university scholars and the livelihood participants. Thanks to our close partner, the Saïd Foundation, we’re working together simultaneously to improve the life chances of Syrian refugees through a good education to fulfill their potential. We’re also empowering refugees through the livelihood project and helping them become resilient, maintain their dignity and contribute to their host communities,” said Emma Cherniavsky, Chief Executive, UK for UNHCR.   

Salem shows his hydroponics home farm in Jordan.

Additionally, the Saïd Foundation visited a plastic moulding factory which is owned by a Syrian refugee in Jordan. The factory has grown into a business that now employs more than 100 people, including refugees and persons with disabilities. The owner, Mohammad, expressed his pride in his business and explained the ways in which he was able to give back and contribute to his community.   

“It was heart-warming to see first-hand the impact of the programmes we support in Lebanon and Jordan. It is always uplifting to meet DAFI scholars and hear their stories and future aspirations. Their determination and passion for success give us hope despite all the challenges facing the region.  We are also pleased to be supporting a livelihood programme in Jordan to contribute to the self-reliance of refugees and the development of their host communities. We are proud of our partnership with the UNHCR and grateful to all the teams in Lebanon and Jordan for their incredible efforts to deliver these impactful programmes.”  said Catherine Thomé, Chief Executive, Saïd Foundation.   

Visiting Safe Techno Plastic Factory in Jordan which is owned by a Syrian refugee.

The Saïd Foundation and UNHCR have a long and transformational partnership that has lasted for more than a decade now. Since 2014, the Foundation has focused on supporting UNHCR’s work to provide quality tertiary education to Syrian refugee scholars through UNHCR’s DAFI Scholarship Programme, a joint initiative with the German government.  

To date, support from the Saïd Foundation has meant over 400 Syrian scholars – in Lebanon and Syria – have received funded university scholarships and a holistic package of support. This has enabled these scholars to access education and fulfill their dreams in their future professional fields in areas such as medicine, law, engineering and journalism. 

In 2021, the Saïd Foundation supported a new UNHCR programme to provide livelihood activities for Syrian refugees in Jordan including vocational training, skills training, mentoring and coaching. 

To find out more about UNHCR DAFI Scholarship, please visit The Saïd Foundation website here.

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