Photo: Marissa, 20, attends a four-day class on Microsoft Word at the Maharat Center, a training and livelihoods center that International Medical Corps supports in Istanbul, Turkey. The course on Microsoft Word is the first in a series of computer skills classes on Microsoft Office, including Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. All of the students are Syrian refugees and are taking the class to help them find a job in Istanbul, or to help them with their current university studies. Credit: International Medical Corps
Following the launch of the NLG Tech Task Force at the 2017 NLG Ed Tech Summit in Amman, Jordan in March, the Task Force is hosting a series of virtual convenings to encourage information sharing and collaboration.
The NLG Tech Task Force was set up by NetHope and the No Lost Generation initiative (NLG) to facilitate collaboration within the international development community and between the NGO and private sector focused on ICT-enabled, evidence-based programs for refugee education and training. For more information, check out the NetHope.org blog post announcing its launch.
Expanding economic opportunity to Syrian refugee youth in Turkey is the third in the NLG Tech Task Force webinar series that is currently focused on youth education, skills-training, and livelihoods. The presentation featured International Medical Corps’ Maharat Center and their ongoing collaboration with the HP Foundation to bring access to education, skills-training, and livelihood opportunities to Syrian refugees living in Turkey using ICT-enabled solutions. The webinar was hosted by NLG Tech Task Force lead, Leila Toplic and was presented by Erica Tavares, Senior Director of Institutional Advancement at International Medical Corps and Debbie Ledbetter, HP LIFE Global Program Manager at the HP Foundation.
Photo: Students attend a four-day class on Microsoft Word at the Maharat Center, a training and livelihoods center that International Medical Corps supports in Istanbul, Turkey. The course on Microsoft Word is the first in a series of computer skills classes on Microsoft Office, including Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. All of the students are Syrian refugees and are taking the class to help them find a job in Istanbul, or to help them with their current university studies. Credit: International Medical Corps
The Syrian conflict has produced what the U.N. has called the biggest humanitarian emergency in our era. Over 5 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries, and Turkey is currently home to 2.7 million, more than any other country in the world. For nearly seven years, millions of Syrian youth have been out of school, with no access to education or livelihood training. Working inside Turkey since 2012, International Medical Corps has been active on the front lines of the refugee crisis across the Middle East and Europe. They provide a variety of services and support to refugees; developing strategic partnerships to equip refugees with the skills necessary to integrate and thrive in their new environment.
Through their operation of four multi-service centers in Turkey, and a broad referral system, International Medical Corps has provided refugees access to healthcare, housing, financial support, and legal services. As the refugee population in Turkey has grown, so too have requests for access to skills training, employment opportunities, job training, and language learning. The Maharat Livelihoods Center was created in response to these needs.
Photo: International Medical Corps supports the Maharat Center, where Syrian refugees and others can come and attend free language and job skills classes. It also organizes job fairs in an effort to help refugees and migrants find work. Credit: International Medical Corps
Maharat, which means “skills” in Arabic, was launched in May 2016 with a focus on livelihood training for refugees living inside Turkey. “We designed the center to offer classes that address immediate employment opportunities, and skills training for Syrian refugees,” Tavares said. Working in collaboration with UNHCR, HP, SAP, and Hilton Worldwide, she described it as a partnership between the aid organizations and private corporations. “From the start, it’s been a collaboration with the private sector.”
In the past year, the Maharat Center has served over 800 Syrian refugees with vocational training, mental health resources and psychosocial support. The Center also offers professional meeting space to those interviewing with potential employers, or prospective funders.
Smart phones with access to social media are widely used among the Syrian refugee population in Turkey. On the Maharat Center’s Facebook page refugees are able to request that specific classes be available, ask questions about services and programming, get referrals for services, and enroll for classes. Information collected through Facebook interactions has helped to shape the programing of the Center to better meet the needs of potential participants.
International Medical Corps’ partnership with HP Foundation is essential to the Maharat Center. The Center includes HP LIFE courses as a part of its core curriculum. HP LIFE offers free online business and IT training, available globally with 27 courses in seven languages. It was created as an open resource to help users improve their business skills and digital literacy; to start or grow a business; or to gain skills for a current or new job. HP Foundation is the main provider of computer hardware, laptops, ongoing technical support, and service. It also provides instructional support for teaching the HP LIFE curriculum at the Center, by training facilitators–who are Syrian refugees themselves. These facilitators then volunteer to teach HP LIFE courses to other refugees in the Center.
“This is the first time that the HP LIFE program has been delivered to a target audience of refugees.” - Erica Tavares
Although HP LIFE classes can be taken independently online, a blended model of classroom and e-learning is offered at the Center to students who benefit from instructors and facilitators on-hand as they navigate the coursework. Since October 2016, 363 users have taken classes in business, finance, marketing, operations, and communication in Arabic and English, with a 55 percent completion rate.
“If HP LIFE looks like a useful resource for your organization, please use it! It is accessible to everyone.” - Debbie Ledbetter
Building on refugee livelihoods training received at the Maharat Center, International Medical Corps is partnering with job placement organizations to connect those who have completed courses and skills training to employers looking for skilled labor. Recent job fairs hosted by the Center have brought in universities and businesses from a broad range of sectors to connect with potential candidates. Facilitating mentorships through collaborations with StartersHub, Impact Hub and others have provided refugees with entrepreneurship advice and counseling.
Due to recent political shifts in Turkey, and out of safety concerns for the staff and users, International Medical Corps moved to suspend operations at the Maharat Livelihoods Center in April. Despite this, the use of technology continues to help overcome challenges on the ground. Courses and referrals are still provided through local organizations and users continue to access HP LIFE outside of the Center’s facilities.
To access the presentation, collateral material, and listen to the Empowering Refugees Through Online Entrepreneurship webinar recording that includes an extensive Q&A session not covered in this recap, visit the webinar landing page.
Coming up next in the NLG Tech Task Force Webinar Series:
Higher education opportunities for refugee youth and adolescents with Coursera For Refugees & Kiron - May 25, 2017
…and more to come!
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