Turning hope into reality for hundreds of young refugees

Giving By Western Union Global Social December 15, 2016

By Elizabeth Roscoe, Executive Director, Western Union Foundation

Western Union® customers liked, logged in, and downloaded. The Western Union business donated. Western Union employees volunteered their time, with some even visiting refugee camps and then going back to help – again and again. And the Western Union Foundation granted funds. Beginning on World Refugee Day in June, and continuing through today, the Western Union and Western Union Foundation family has once again stepped up to help those in need, providing support, hope and opportunity to those who lost so much. These are the world’s refugees – people who left everything behind, escaping conflict and persecution, in search of a better future.

Welcome to Skaramagas.

Skaramagas, an isolated suburb of northwest Athens, is home to the Skaramagas refugee camp. Located beside a working shipyard, and surrounded by barbed wire on three sides and the ocean on the fourth, this camp is now one of the largest in Greece. According to a GeoCHOROS survey from the Greek Ministry of Health, as of August 2016, the camp is home to more than 3,200 refugees – of which more than half are children under age 17. It was here in April, June and again in December, that Western Union employees recognized the immediate, and long-term need for additional classrooms, education and schooling for these children. 

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According to UNICEF, as of August 2016, there were nearly 27,500 children stranded in Greece, and the number continues to rise. Many have lost years of schooling or missed out entirely – their education disrupted by escalating conflict and violence in their home countries.

WU cause marketing and WU Foundation grant supports refugee education.

In June 2016, through a limited-time, comprehensive My WU® loyalty program member call to action (in 19 countries and five languages) led by the WU Global Loyalty team, the equivalent of US$32,400 was raised to support education for refugees. The funds were then donated to the WU Foundation and granted to Athens-based NGO SolidarityNow in support of the “Hope School,” a refugee-initiated educational unit within the Skaramagas camp. It’s expected that nearly 1,000 individuals (including teachers and students) will directly benefit from this single WU Foundation grant.

Founded on the belief that education is a basic human right, not a privilege, the Hope School mirrors the WU Company and WU Foundation belief that access to quality education is a right for everyone – no matter where they live or where they are from.

Founded and run by refugee volunteers, the Hope School provides lessons in refugee native languages (including Kurdish, Arabic and Farsi), as well as other subjects like Greek, English, math, science and technology. This educational model provides traditional classroom and pre-integration training, while promoting inter-cultural understanding. In addition, classes are taught by educated, volunteer refugee teachers who reside in the camp. This innovative approach to delivering education has the added benefits of promoting self-organization and capacity-building within the refugee community.

Hope School

WU employees offer the gift of technology.

When it comes to education, refugee children are among the world’s most marginalized groups. According to UNICEF, digital technology not only provides access to education, it opens doors to a host of integrated resources, ranging from psychosocial support to life and technology-driven skills. That’s why, in early December 2016, a group of WU employees came together to donate tablets to the Hope School, as well as several other refugee schools in Greece, Jordan and Lebanon. In early December, Maureen Sigliano, Vice President, Global Loyalty Development & Membership, and Jodie Madden, Sr. Manager, Global Loyalty Development and Membership visited the Skaramagas camp in Greece – to volunteer their time and deliver some of the donated tablets to the Hope School. “This specific initiative is critical because refugee children, like our children, need to be armed to plug into the global economy that they are a part of,” said Maureen.

Please stay tuned to this blog for further information on the Hope School and to hear more about the Western Union and Western Union Foundation commitment and efforts to help create a sustainable future for refugees worldwide.

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The Western Union Foundation is a separate §501(c)(3) recognized United States non-profit corporation supported by the Western Union Company, its employees, Agents, and business partners working to support education and disaster relief efforts as pathways toward a better future.