The Sardashty Center – A Special Place

3 September 2023 | Education

From the beginning of our activities in Iraq, we have been placing a strong emphasis on supporting education. We have provided schools with teaching materials, blackboards, printers, and textbooks. We have also organized summer camps for children and vocational courses for adults.

Years of wars have led to a significant decline in Iraqi education. Schools are overcrowded, and often lack the most basic equipment. In many areas, especially those located far from larger urban centers, education is still in its infancy. Luckily, year by year the situation is getting better, although not at the same pace everywhere. This is particularly evident in the mountainous regions bordering Syria and Turkey, where there is still much work to be done.

In 2021, using funds collected through the 1% tax donation (in cooperation with the Children’s Aid Foundation in Żywiec), we constructed the Sardashty Center. The aim of the Center is to provide education to the residents of the nearby camp for internally displaced persons. It is not a typical school but rather a cultural center that accommodates children and youth across various age groups. The Center also offers activities for adults, including sewing courses, English language classes, and computer training.

The world has forgotten about them

The Sardashty Center was created in the largest informal camp for internally displaced persons located in Northern Iraq. What are the main features of such an informal camp? Simply put, it has not been officially registered with the United Nations, hence its residents do not benefit from organized humanitarian assistance. It is important to note that more than 2,500 families, amounting to over 12,000 people, live there, a significant number of whom are youth and children. These are families that fled the atrocities committed by ISIS in August 2014, and many of them lost loved ones who were either abducted or killed.

The camp is located on a plateau on top of the Mount Sinjar. After the terrorists took over the southern part of the region, it was the first place where thousands of refugees managed to reach. Unable to go any further, they remained on the plateau, waiting for help. They never truly received it and ended up staying and settling there over time. It’s poignant to note that before the events of 2014, only three families lived there.

A space for the young and old

Throughout most of the day, children living in this camp help their parents with everyday household chores. They take care of livestock or look after their younger siblings. They do not have access to many forms of entertainment, if any at all. The Sardashty Center not only provides them with the opportunity to gain education but also allows for social integration with their peers.

Various activities take place here, in which both young children and teenagers participate. They learn reading and writing, basic English, and subjects such as mathematics, among other things. They also take part in arts and music classes, along with many developing games and activities.

But we do not forget about adults. We have organized computer and language courses for them and we currently run a small sewing workshop with sewing and crafting activities. Women of various ages and backgrounds attend these courses (including those who were held captive by ISIS terrorists). It serves as a form of occupational therapy and a place where they can meet and open up to one another. Additionally, it offers them the opportunity to acquire new skills, and the items produced in these courses, such as children’s clothing, can be taken home.

We continuously develop the Sardashty Center. In 2022, we built a shelter to protect its pupils from the scorching sun in the summer, as well as rain and snow during the winter time. This allows the Center to carry out its mission throughout the entire year. Our goal for this year is to install a deep well to provide the Center with its own clean water. Additionally, we provide it with monthly support of around 9,000 PLN (2000 USD/EUR). This covers expenses such as fuel for generators, heating oil for the winter, water and snacks for children, and educational materials.

Keeping the Sardashty Center running is one of our top priorities. Seeing the joy it brings every day, we know that it is worth investing in.

Author: Dawid Czyż

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