This past winter break, we (Nitsan Shakked and Stephanie Leutert) found ourselves navigating around Jordan—starting in Amman and traveling to refugee camps in the northern part of the country.

Our trip was a continuation of an independent project on educational programming for Syrian refugees that we had started the semester before with Emma Sky, a Senior Fellow here at Jackson.

It all began with an idea to map out the humanitarian response to the crisis and to look for ways that Yale community members could play a supporting role. We spoke with NGOs that were active in Jordan and through our conversations (in particular with Relief International), we moved from just research to also providing tangible support for educational infrastructure. With generous Yale funding from students, faculty, alumni and private donors, we helped RI build three fully furnished educational caravans in the Azraq Camp, home to roughly 20,000 Syrian refugees.

With support from the Jackson Institute, we headed out to visit the caravans in early January and to meet the team that we had been working with from afar. The trip included a visit to the Za’atari camp, 10 kilometers from the Syrian border, and to the Azraq camp in the middle of the Jordanian desert.

We also stopped by UNICEF’s offices to learn about their work with refugees and other NGOs providing services to Syrians within the country. Through it all, we heard about the Syrian refugee community’s impressive commitment to education among a devastating situation and the great work of so many organizations and individuals.

We want to thank everyone who made this all possible, including the refugees who shared their situations, hopes, and fears; the aid workers who took time away from their hectic schedules to answer questions; Jackson classmate Tom Berry who spearheaded our fundraising efforts here at Yale—and truly made this a reality; Relief International and in particular Danijel for being great partners; the Yale community members, who were so generous with their donations; and the Jackson Institute, who supported us at every step along the way.