Meet our 2016 Visionary of the Year, Nousha Kabawat!

With the Syrian conflict at the forefront of our news and heavy in our hearts, this year we honor Nousha Kabawat, a Syrian-Canadian who founded Project Amal ou Salam (Hope and Peace), a grassroots organization that is dedicated to empowering Syrian refugee children and helping them to shape a better future.

On our Euphrates trip to the Middle East in September, we had the opportunity to spend a day with Nousha at Project Amal ou Salam’s school in Jerash, Jordan. It was incredible to see Nousha’s leadership and energy in action, as well as her commitment to the school’s staff and students. We were deeply inspired by the light and hope the kids expressed as they told us about their ambitions, played games and sang songs with us.

Watch this video from our visit with Nousha at a Project Amal ou Salam school:

“I couldn’t be more proud to be this year’s Euphrates Visionary and share the work we do to give back to the most vulnerable victims of the Syrian conflict–Syrian refugee children. These kids are the future of Syria. They inspire me and give me hope every day.” – Nousha Kabawat, 2016 Visionary of the Year

Nousha was raised in the Old City of Damascus where her family has lived for generations. At age 17, she left Syria to attend university in Canada, and when the Syrian civil war broke out, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University. She also co-founded and directed the Syrian Center for Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace in Toronto, and earned a graduate certificate in Global Journalism from the University of Toronto.

When she returned to Syria several years later, she saw the immediate need to put her education into action. Nousha visited a camp for Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) and was saddened to see children imitating the helpless attitudes of their parents. She says,

“Thinking that this would one day be the generation that would go back and rebuild Syria, I knew I had to do something that would feed their self-esteem or else they would become angry and revengeful thinking the world had forgotten them.”

Rather than seeing Syrian children as a lost generation, she started Project Amal ou Salam in 2013 as a way to inspire hope and to help them rebuild their country. The organization runs workshops at schools in neighboring countries of refuge—Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. These programs are designed to go beyond offering physical aid to refugee children by addressing their emotional needs as well. As Leaderise Journal writes,

“By helping Syria’s next generation cope with [the] trauma and tragedy of war, Nousha is committed to helping them become strong, capable and productive members of society, ready to rebuild their country.”

So far, her workshops have reached more than 6,000 children in the region. Over 100 Amal ou Salam ambassadors have joined the effort from around the world and they work strictly as volunteers so that all proceeds can go directly towards the kids and their activities. The team of volunteers works to instill values of non-violence and pluralism through the creative arts, sports, and music. By teaching respect for diversity and acting as a positive influence in the lives of Syrian youth, Project Amal ou Salam represents the antithesis of terrorist groups and the fear they contribute to society.

We are immensely grateful to Nousha for the light she is bringing to the darkness and tragedy of the Syrian refugee crisis, and we couldn’t imagine a more deserving individual for our 2016 Visionary award. Nousha’s selfless service, combined with her contagious energy and passion, makes her an incredible leader in her home country and the surrounding region. Her unstoppable approach is a powerful example to all who share a vision of peace in the Middle East.

To learn more about Nousha and her inspiring story, read her interview with Leadarise Journal or this BBC article about “Syria’s next generation.” Be sure to check out the Project Amal ou Salam website and Facebook page!

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