After nearly three years of conflict in Syria, it’s becoming clear that the impacts are not just in the violence of the present: Another casualty – for children who cannot go to school, for patients who cannot see their doctors, for people who have lost their jobs, savings and homes – is the future. One of the tasks facing the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is to help Palestine refugees in Syria maintain hope for a better future.
In October 2013, the Agency created another window for that hope when it opened a vocational training branch, modeled on the UNRWA Damascus Training Centre, in the Homs refugee camp. Here, young Palestine refugees receive vocational training that will provide them with training and skills that will help them in the labour market, increasing their earning capacity and their ability to support their families. Already, the centre has 143 students hard at work studying subjects like welding, air conditioning, information technology, marketing, and business and office practices.
A student in the business and office practices course, Yasser Hajir, said that the branch had opened at an important time, “as students in Homs can’t travel to Damascus anymore to receive training at the Damascus Training Centre.” The branch in Homs is being supported by the Engaging Youth project, funded by the European Union, and has also received support from the Agency’s education programme, which converted three classrooms and two halls from its al-Shajarah school into workshops for trainees.
The students at the centre are committed to their courses: The current circumstances have made it clear that a diploma is an important passport for their future. Nada al-Ghuben, studying marketing and business administration, said: “We worry about finding employment in light of the current situation. The branch here meets our needs and is giving me the training I need to begin a new career.”
A colleague, Ahmad Othman, emphasized the opportunity that the branch provided to students like himself, to complete their technical training and increase their chances of finding rewarding jobs. For UNRWA, the Homs branch – which will serve young refugees until a specialized vocational training centre can be constructued in the area – is a symbol of its determination to protect and nurture the future for Palestine refugees in Syria.