Scholarships can create a better future for refugee students
By Libby Orr, Communications Manager, UWCSEA Foundation
Mahmoud, Class of 2019, is one of the two scholars supported by the UWCSEA community in 2016/2017 to receive a scholarship through the UWC Refugee Initiative. He joined UWC Mostar in September after being selected by the UWC National Committee for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon.
“My dad is a wood painter. His work is so tough but he is always trying to make us live a happy life and I really appreciate that. My dad is my main supporter, he trusts me so much and he gives me faith and power. He always wanted me to see the reality of our life, he once said “As you know, I can’t pay for your education in the university. You are a smart boy and I trust you. Your only way to complete your studies is scholarship which I am sure that you will get, so keep going on and make me proud of you”. His encouragement inspired me to work hard.
Growing up in the camp and experiencing things that you can never experience outside is something special. For example, I enjoyed playing football in the narrow streets between houses because there is no other place to play. On the other hand, growing up in the camp made me think more about human rights, about racism, about my educational future. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon still do not have the right to own a property; do not have the right to do any kind of instruction inside camps and are prevented from doing certain jobs. People are still suffering there, just imagine you are a member of a big family living in a small house, where you do not have electricity most of the time, waiting for your father to come back from his job late at night. Nevertheless, we still have hope and we will never give up on any of our dreams.
While we have access to some health care the UN hospitals have basic facilities. If you cannot cover the costs of your treatment, you have to find some organisations or someone to help you. It is, unfortunately, a major problem that Palestinian refugees face. We also have the UN schools which most refugees go to because other schools are not free. Most of the schools are located inside the camps but there is an absence of facilities and classes are very crowded.
The first time I heard about UWC was 2 years ago when Uliana (the woman who works at our national committee) came to our school to tell us about the Refugee Scholarship. Many of us applied that year but we were rejected. I did not give up and the next year I got it. It is a life-changing opportunity. Scholarships give us the chance to have a better future. While refugee students may be able to complete high school in Lebanon, most cannot afford to pay for university and so their options are very limited.
Since coming to UWC I now have a very different vision and planning for my future. I am not sure what I am going to be in ten years, but now I have the chance to be a doctor or a biochemist and, when I have qualified, I can go back and contribute as much as I can. It is always nice to pay back and be thankful.
Young people in camps need more support regarding education, the improvement of school’s facilities and healthcare. I think that giving the gift of a scholarship is so effective. It can change lives for the better. Education is a very powerful weapon that we can use to create positive change."
A second scholar from South Sudan was also supported through the UWC Refugee Initiative. Their two-year scholarship to UWC Dilijan was made possible thanks to a generous UWCSEA family.