29
Jul

Blossom Hill Foundation & PAAIA Trustee Shiva Sarram Visit Jordan

July 29, 2022 – PAAIA trustee Shiva Sarram recently spent some time in Jordan to visit programs that are being implemented by Blossom Hill Foundation, a non-profit organization she founded in 2009. Blossom Hill’s vision is a world where children affected by war and conflict thrive. “These are the lost generation of children who will have no future unless we intervene with programs that put them on a path to a better future,” said Sarram. “These are children from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and other places whose rights to education, livelihoods, and protection have been endangered.” 

To that end, the organization funds social entrepreneurs with innovative programs that can make breakthroughs for children who have been displaced due to war and conflict in the Middle East. To date, Blossom Hill has implemented programs in child development, education, vocational training and technology, reaching over 90,000 war-affected children in 25 countries. Jordan is a key beneficiary country for Blossom Hill as it hosts 760,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Of those, some 670,000 are from Syria, making Jordan the second largest host country of Syrian refugees per capita globally behind Lebanon. 

Sarram’s first stop was in rural South Azraq where the first and only Montessori-inspired Early Childhood Center for refugee children is being run by a Blossom Hill Fellow.  The Center is part of the larger Azraq Education and Community Center that provides education for refugees up to grade 10. “I heard stories from children, parents, and teachers alike about how our support has changed the very fabric of life in this small refugee town,” said Sarram. “In what is a desert enclave with the sun beating at 104 degrees, the center is its oasis.” 

After her visit to South Azraq, Sarram journeyed to Amman to pay a visit to SuperGirls, a girls empowerment initiative, and Sports for All, which promotes social inclusion through the love of sports. The impact of these programs has been lifechanging, bringing a degree of normalcy into the disrupted childhoods of refugee children. “The level of poverty and need is dire for refugees living in a big city and the challenges they face are that much harder,” said Sarram. “But the children in our programs are thriving and feeling positive about their future.” 

PAAIA is excited to follow the continuing work of Shiva Sarram and the Blossom Hill Foundation to better the lives of children in areas affected by war and conflict. You can read more about Blossom Hill Foundation and Shiva Sarram’s trip to Jordan here and follow BH on social media to learn more about all their schools and programs around the globe. 

We interviewed Shiva Sarram to learn more about her experience in Jordan: 

PAAIA: What is the biggest takeaway from your time in Jordan?  

Shiva: Despite their circumstances, it became re-affirming that refugee children are resilient and are holding on to their dreams. All they need is an opportunity to thrive. Children have a universal right to education, and they should not be deprived of this because they were forced to flee their countries.  

PAAIA: Why Jordan? What speaks to you about this nation? Is Blossom Hill active in other countries as well? 

Shiva: The need is tremendous everywhere but especially in Jordan given it is one of the countries hosting the largest number of refugees. Currently, we have 16 programs in 11 countries in the Middle East and Europe. Our board member Reza Sayah and I do site visits, and this was a trip originally planned for Spring of 2020 but delayed due to the pandemic.  

PAAIA: Why should people care about helping those living in areas affected by war and conflict? 

Shiva: These are forgotten children. The protracted conflicts they escaped from no longer make headlines that are being continuously replaced by the next emergency. The refugees from Afghanistan have already taken a back seat to those from Ukraine. That is why we need to come together and give them hope through our programs. Our programs are the first and only one of their kind in the communities we serve.  And please know that we have Iranian students and youth that benefit from our programs and schools. 

PAAIA: What can the Iranian American community do to help your foundation? 

Shiva:  As Iranian Americans, we all know what it is like to flee our homes overnight, leaving behind our home, family, books, toys, neighbors, etc. We know how hard it is to make a new life in a new country and yet hang on to our roots.  The best way our community can help others who face the challenge of being uprooted, is by making a donation, joining as thought partners to our Fellows, helping us evaluate and interview Fellowship applicants, and spreading the word on our work.  

We have evidence-based proven programs that can be scaled up and replicated to benefit many more refugee children. But we need all the support we can get to get there.  Help us build more schools for refugees and more centers for refugee communities! 

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