As International Youth Day celebrates youth engagement for global action, millions of young people are making a difference and working for change while facing the challenges of displacement.
The Za’atari Camp in Jordan is home to nearly 78,000 Syrian refugees—more than 55 percent of whom are under the age of 18. Many of these young people have never been to Syria or have only vague memories of life before displacement. Through family, faith, school, and activities, they are creating a community at Za’atari, while building skills for the future.
For young people ages 12 to 17, one opportunity to engage is to become a TIGER.
TIGER, which stands for These Inspiring Girls Enjoy Reading, supports girls and boys with coaching and activities to encourage confidence, collaboration, and engagement. TIGER students explore and develop their interests and skills through mentoring, and learn to set goals, solve problems, and effect positive change in their community.
Funded by UNHCR, TIGER activities cover a range of interests and lessons designed to help young people find their place and their voice.
“TIGER helped me determine my path in life, discover my skills and maximize my potentials,” said 15-year-old Eman, who joined three years ago. “In TIGER I made many friends whom I consider now as family. We learn from each, support each other, and grow together. When we first fled from Syria, we felt so disconnected, Blumont’s centers brought us together as we met each other here and made life-time friendships.”
Through TIGER, Eman was introduced to the Innovation Lab at Za’atari, sparking a new interest in engineering and robotics.
“I used to be very shy when I talk to people,” said 14-year-old Sidra, who has been a TIGER for 3 years. “The coaches supported me and encouraged me to unleash my potential as they discovered that I’m talented in writing and reciting poems. Now I participate in poetry contests and I ranked 1st place in one of the contests.”
TIGER coaches, who are also camp residents, work with young people in a group and in tailored one-on-one sessions. In groups, TIGER students are encouraged to work together to talk through challenges and support one another.
“Being a TIGER student makes me feel strong, being part of a group makes me feel empowered and inspired,” said 15-year-old Hala. “One thing that I love about TIGER is the fact that we always have discussion groups where we discuss our concerns and everyone listens and even if they don’t face the same problem, they always give advice and offer help.”
As young people build leadership skills through TIGER programming, they are also empowered to apply these lessons to better their communities. Students write poems and plays about fighting gender-based violence and child marriage. They have established anti-littering campaigns to encourage camp residents to keep the environment clean. In one recent effort, boys in the program helped decorate dental clinics with art to reassure children who may be nervous about a trip to the dentist.
“Teamwork is an essential part of the TIGER program, as groups from the different districts [of the camp] meet and get engaged in different initiatives and activities,” said Eman. “In the TIGER program I learned how to solve problems and think out of the box.”
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of TIGER girls used their calligraphy skills to create posters with tips on how to stay safe and healthy. The signs were hung in community centers and high-visibility areas to help raise awareness.
TIGER students were also involved in efforts to help families grow vegetables and herbs at home using water and recycled materials.
“During COVID-19, I took part in the “Go Green” initiative, where we learned about hydroponic gardening, which is a way of growing plants without using soil,” said 12-year-old Raneem, who recently joined TIGER. “We received tablets and internet bundles from Blumont which we used to watch videos online to know more about hydroponics, and our coaches encouraged us to use recycled materials like egg cartons to plant inside them.”
The confidence built in TIGER carries over to academics and homelife as well, with many participants sharing that their reading and language skills have improved since joining. By instilling a love of learning and both self-confidence and the recognition that each person is part of a community, TIGER activities are opening up new opportunities for young people at Za’atari.
“I feel proud whenever I wear TIGER’s vest,” said Sidra. “I feel proud because I am a part of a big supportive family that shaped my personality and made me a better person.”