This is Karam, a Letter of Gratitude
By: Lina Sergie Attar, CEO & Co-Founder
My mother recently sent me a message with a forgotten original meaning of the word Karam. Karam is an Arabic word invented to express a social contract to protect Bedouin tribes from starvation, thirst, or heat while traveling in the desert. It meant that if you witnessed a caravan of people in need, you practiced karam, the act of giving for giving’s sake, to help those you do not know.
In terrible years like the one we are now closing, when humanity has witnessed the worst of atrocities, injustices, and destruction, this simple social contract of giving seems to be more necessary and more meaningful than ever. In this way, working at Karam Foundation to expand the act of karam itself was the only solace to turn to as we lost friends, homes, and cities. The work itself proved over and over that in the face of unthinkable brutality, you can choose to become helpless or you can choose to help someone. You can choose despair or hope.
2016 began and ended with emergency appeals — these crises that we cannot predict but always know that civilian populations across Syria are at risk of confronting in a conflict zone. From starvation in Madaya to forced evacuations in Aleppo, our team mobilized to provide food, infant formula, winterization kits, community kitchens, and shelter to hundreds of thousands of Syrian families. In addition to our Smart Aid programs, we also supported dozens of schools inside Syria and Lebanon that serve thousands of Syrian students while employing hundreds of Syrian teachers. Our Sponsor a Syrian Family program expanded to include hundreds of kids who now attend school regularly.
Although 2016 was one of our toughest years yet, you, our supporters, have made it our biggest year of growth. We have almost doubled our fundraising from $1.3 million in 2015 to over $2.3 million (and counting) in 2016. We have grown from a 5-person operation in 2015 to a team of 16 dedicated people in 3 offices in Syria, Turkey, and the United States.
The core of our work, our Innovative Education programs have also been evolving. In January 2017, we will open the doors to our latest project in Reyhanli — Karam House: a community innovation center for Syrian refugee teens. We are so proud of this project and its endless possibilities. We can’t wait to share all the exciting details with you very soon! We will also be expanding our Higher Education program for Syrian refugee youth in Turkey, Jordan, and the US, providing scholarships and opportunities for brilliant young minds.
As we move forward with Karam’s work, we choose hope and the future. There are so many parts of our world today with problems and horrors at a scale beyond our reach but there are also so many opportunities to give something meaningful, impactful, and life-affirming to those around us. Our team will create, build, and sustain the most meaningful ways to help Syrians in need — now and for the future. This is our social contract with you, our donors, and with the people we humbly serve.
Karam will be 10 years old in 2017. 10 years ago, I would have never imagined that this tiny nonprofit founded in my living room in Chicago with only one goal, “to give to those in need,” would impact so many lives, fueled by your generosity and trust, and the expectations of the inspiring people we serve every day. We are grateful that you choose to support Karam’s work. I hope you are as proud as I am to be a part of it.
May 2017 bring joy, peace, and prosperity to you and your families, and to Syrian families across the globe. May it be the year of hope and a better future for all of us.
With love and gratitude,
Lina Sergie Attar
CEO & Co-Founder