U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Applauds Zakat Foundation's Dedication to Helping Syrian Refugee Children
Embedded within the mission of Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) is a dedication to ensuring the self-reliance of those in need around the world. In the spirit of empowering the youth whose lives have been torn apart by war, ZF is sponsoring the education of internally displaced children within Syria as well as Syrian refugee children in the southeastern city of Gaziantep in Turkey.
Encompassing 10 schools and 5,800 refugee children, this effort was recently recognized by the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, John R. Bass, as he toured the school, spoke with the students, and witnessed ZF's dedication to improving lives. During the June 26, 2015 visit, Bass highly commended ZF's efforts in the region for supporting Syrians "at a time when the need is so great." He and his wife, U.S. diplomat Holly Holzer Bass, were warmly welcomed by the students and staff of the school along with ZF Executive Director Halil Demir and his wife, ZF Medical Programs Advisor Donna Neil-Demir, who flew in from Chicago, IL for the visit.
Bass acknowledged and emphasized the need for such efforts in the region, stating, "We want to thank Zakat Foundation and American-Muslims who help support Syrians in need at a time when need is so great. And there will always be more which needs to be done and resources to be given. But the generosity and spirit you show is remarkable. And to see the result in the classroom is truly inspiring. Shukran jazilan. Tebrikler. Cok tesekkurler."
In the course of the day, Bass presented an award to one of the teachers for her dedication to preparing these children for a brighter future. He also spent some time speaking with the students, hearing their personal stories and learning about the journey that led each of them to Gaziantep. One of the stories that came to the visiting team's attention was that of an 8-year-old student, Ibrahim. The young child and his mother are both actively battling cancer, and are both with the ZF-sponsored school – Ibrahim as a student in Grade 2 and his mother as the school janitor. The team was inspired by the children's life stories and their commitment to peace and rebuilding their country.
Mark S. Ward, Director of the Syrian Transition Assistance and Response Team (START), and John L. Espinoza, U.S. Consul General to Adana, also joined this tour of the ZF-sponsored school. The group took time to discuss ZF's progress in helping Syrian refugee children build better lives for themselves and, in the future, their families. Ward remarked, "While all that ZF has done has been without asking anything from the American government, this is an act of the entrepreneurship of philanthropy at its best. It is outstanding."