Can an avenue for cultural expression provide Syrian refugees an opportunity to rebuild their homeland, Yara shows us how

The Ajala Project presents Yara Tlass, a jewelry maker changing the world

Yara Tlass, founder of Watanili set up a foundation to provide Syrian refugee children with educational tools and and a creative space for self expression

What is the main purpose of your initiative, Watanili?

Our mission is to contribute to the re-building of Syria through grassroots local initiatives that focuses on the important needs of the people. We carry out projects that encourages the development of EDUCATION, ART, and CULTURE as well as providing a space for cultural expression for children.

What made you decide on your mission? A specific event or incident?

With what’s been happening in Syria since 2011, I felt the need to help out and create a positive difference. Every Syrian feels the need to help and do something to alleviate the suffering. I feel privileged to have been able to create Watanili and contribute to rebuilding efforts in Syria, my homeland.

What message do you seek to promote through your initiative?

Social equality, where everyone has fair opportunities to realize their full potential. At Watanili, we seek to provide the young generation of future Syrians with the resources and tools they may need to become leaders and rebuild their homeland. We also seek to create a space for culture expression where everyone and anyone is empowered to express themselves freely.

We believe that a better future starts now. Every citizen should be empowered to realize their potential regardless of religion, gender, age and ethnicity. We can bring about positive change through social and civil actions, and discover our creative sides through the field of arts and culture.

What are some of the primary objectives of your initiative?

Tackling educational challenges specifically, lack of access to education within marginalized communities. Revive the cultural and artistic expression within vulnerable communities; we believe in the power of art to heal,empower and elevate society. To provide grassroots local aid in the form of supplies (food baskets, medicine, toys, clothes and books) to displaced communities in need

What have been your biggest success since the start of your initiative?

Establishing Makani, our learning center on the border town of Reyhanli and being able to sustain it for almost a year now; refugee children are attending classes every single day, learning basic literacy and numeracy, enjoying arts and crafts, learning to express themselves and feel empowered

What are your biggest challenges and limiting resources?

Ensuring sustainable funds and finding reliable donors is always a challenge as well as making sure you have the right team on board.

What are some of your biggest motivators?

Motivation elements include the impact on the kids ‘well being, the smiles, the joy that we are able to create when we run recreational activities with them. These are the biggest motivators as well as the education level and the skills that they acquire throughout the programs.

What is your fondest memory since you started your initiative?

Seeing the kids happy, hopeful, more confident and inspired is always a great feeling and a constant reminder of why we do what we do.

What does The Ajala Project mean to you, what do you expect from us?

To me, it is a beautiful movement that reaches out to change makers and provides them with a platform to raise awareness about their initiatives and share their stories. I expect The Ajala Project to share our mission, dreams and objectives with the world in the hopes of inspiring people to connect with us to create great things together and make the world a little bit sweeter.

Yara Tlass, as featured on The AJALA Project’s Facebook Page

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