Giving green hope to Syrian refugee kids
Workshops conducted for Syrian refugee camp children by Green Hope Foundation
Even as the world ushered in the new year with festivities, parties and celebrations, a five-member team from a youth organisation, Green Hope, decided to mark the new year a bit more meaningfully.
Kehkashan Basu, the 17-year-old founder of Green Hope Foundation, along with her two teammates Srishti Iyer and Joshua Saji, both 16, and two parent volunteers Swati Basu and Somy Varghese, visited a Syrian refugee camp on the Lebanon border. There, they conducted environmental workshops for the children and distributed clothes, woollens, toys, books and other items, thus giving them necessities and bringing some much needed joy in their lives.
Talking about the initiative, Basu said: "We wanted this New Year to be very special for these children. With the help of our members, we collected a large consignment of clothes, woollens, books, flasks and toys. It wasn't just a charity initiative where we simply gave out these things. We wanted to hold workshops for them, engage and educate them and give them a sense of achievement that would boost their confidence levels."
The children were also given medals, certificates and gifts after they participated in the workshops. "This made them feel good about themselves. They need to be respected and treated with dignity and have their own identity," said Basu.
Elaborating on this particular mission, Basu said its main objective was to engage and educate the Syrian refugee children on environmental conservation. "Through our workshops and other activities, we wanted to engage, educate and empower them so that they too become a part of the sustainable development process and start taking actions within their zones of influence."
Over a two-day period, the team conducted six environmental workshops, each for a specific age group. Over 200 children aged between 7 and 18 attended the workshops, which was their first exposure to conservation issues. "We educated them about global warming , the UN Environment's 'Beat Pollution' campaign, the need to go plastic-free , how tree planting reduces the carbon footprint impact and the need to recycle and reuse so that they could reduce wastage in their camps and do more with less," Basu told Khaleej Times. The workshops were interactive, with music, songs, art and quizzes were used to instruct the youngsters.
Since the camps are without electricity for most of the day, the Green Hope team also distributed solar rechargeable lamps, which would enable them to study at night.
The response they got was outstanding. "Up until now, the children were being given therapy sessions with psychologists to emotionally de-stress them of the war-related trauma they had gone through. But this is the first time they were exposed to fun, learning activities. They have been so steeped in their own misery that they had no clue what outside life, environment or fun is about," Basu said. After workshops, the attendees wrote down action pledges on handprint cutouts which they put up on a 'tree of hope'. The two-day workshop inspired the kids so much that they have decided to organise a cleanup campaign in their camps themselves, once the rainy season is over. They also plan to plant trees within their camps.
"The plight of Syrian refugees has been dominating headlines for years now. Feeling sorry for them is no longer enough and it is imperative that each and every member of society takes steps to alleviate their suffering, as they have every right to a life of dignity like the rest of us," concluded Basu.
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