From refugee camp to rocket science: Khaled from Nazareth

04 September 2012

4 September 2012
Beirut, Lebanon

“I always introduce myself as Khaled, a Palestinian from Nazareth”, he says today. Although he grew up near the Burj Barajneh Camp near Beirut, Khaled still remembers the stories told by his parents about their home in Palestine.

After fleeing their home in Nazareth, his family and other Palestine refugees faced a number of obstacles in securing education and employment in the countries where they found refuge. Yet Khaled was determined to make use of every opportunity available to him. Taking advantage of free schooling at an UNRWA school, he was regularly seen sitting in front of his father’s tailor shop, studying for hours on end.

“UNRWA’s education system prepared me very well for university”, he recalls; in particular crediting the Agency’s English classes. With 68 schools in Lebanon alone, UNRWA provides free primary education for over 32,000 young Palestine refugees in the country today.

Taking advantage of every opportunity

Always first in his class, Khaled was awarded a scholarship in his last year of secondary school from the Hope Fund – a programme that gives bright, underprivileged Palestinian refugee students a chance to pursue post-secondary education in the United States.

On beginning his studies, his first area of concentration was the computer sciences. He quickly found time to add courses in mathematics, physics, and statistics. Eventually he was awarded research grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), beginning a relationship with the agency that continues to this day.

“I felt compelled to take advantage of every opportunity I was given”, Khaled explains. “I knew that education was the only way to achieve a better future, and Lebanon had very limited options for me as a refugee.”

Remembering his roots

Today, Khaled has completed his master’s degree, is currently finishing a doctorate in applied physics, and continues to conduct research with NASA.

Not forgetting how far he has come, each time he arrives in Lebanon he visits his father’s tailor shop to remember his childhood. Now expecting a baby boy with his wife, Khaled says the stories his parents told him about their home in Palestine will continue to be passed down through the generations.

And for young Palestine refugees growing up today, he shares words of encouragement: “Invest in your education, because only education can open doors for you.”

Learn more about UNRWA’s education programme.

Make a donation to support students at UNRWA schools.

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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