Empowering Refugee Children Through Technology

Global Issues By Emily Larson March 22, 2017

At Western Union we know that the future is about technology and that the future is no different for refugees. We want to change the way the world thinks about refugee’s education. Refugee children, just like our own children, need to have access to the whole world and the only way to do that is through access to the internet.  They need to be equipped to plug into the global economy of which they are a part of, instead of falling behind due to the lack of digital resources or exposure to traditional teaching methods only.

At our November 2016 Leadership meeting in Dubai we announced plans to empower pupils at five refugee schools in Greece, Jordan and Lebanon with tablets; “The world is running because of technology.  We need to ensure these children can run too.  Otherwise they will always stay behind,” Matthieu Majdi El Alawi, Headmaster at Bonheur du Ciel School in Beirut, Lebanon.

Our Marketing team in Dubai had put $15,000 USD towards the initiative from their budget, but we thought we could do better. We encouraged all the leaders to top up the budget so that we could empower more children. Each extra tablet can make a transformational difference in several children’s lives. The leaders donated a total of $15,500 of their own money towards this amazing project, thereby doubling the number of tablets we could donate.

In the four months since the Leadership meeting we have donated 150 tablets and laptops to five schools* in Greece and Lebanon and plan to give approximately 60 more to two schools in Jordan. These are all schools that teach refugees (either exclusively or mixed with host community children) and that embrace technology as part of their curricula. They have all expanded their IT offerings thanks to WU’s donations.

“This is such a fantastic initiative because it is so concrete and meaningful.  We all know how impactful a simple tablet can be for educational and social purposes.  I love knowing that these children will get exposed to a world beyond their immediate surroundings,” said Jeff Hochstadt, Senior Vice President Finance at Western Union.

We have received lovely messages of gratitude and excitement from the schools and pupils. Here are a few of them:

“We are really thankful to Western Union for not just the tablets but for all the support that you have given to us and to others. These kinds of actions do make a difference in the world”, said Deyaa Orfali, volunteer Headmaster at Hope School in Skaramangas, Greece

“These tablets helped us to get familiarized with technology and the usage of the internet to search

for different subjects learned during the courses” said Yasser, a Syrian student at Cemetery School of Mt Liban in Beirut, Lebanon.

“The laptops donated by Western Union have significantly increased our capacity to implement interactive online educational support. The children of our shelter are able to receive educational and language support from top teachers from all over the world.”, said Sofia Kouvelaki, Executive Director of the HOME Project. “Education and language support are key elements in the process of social integration. These laptops have enabled the children to have access to tools that will help them develop skills and participate in a world of more equal opportunity”.

Since pictures and videos say a million words, please enjoy the following:

Watch the video from the Hope School to see the children’s excitement!

Kids at the Hope School using the tablets for the first time.

Thessaloniki Elpida School

* Hope School (Athens, Greece); Thessaloniki Elpida School (Thessaloniki, Greece); Home Project (Athens, Greece); Bonheur du Ciel Orphanage & School (Ghosta, Lebanon); Cemetery School of Mt Liban (Beirut, Lebanon).