Hourie Tafech Speaks to DGA on Challenges Facing Student Refugees

Founder of NGO “Spark 15” Addresses DGA Students on Challenges Facing Student Refugees

Hourie Tafech is making a mark on the world: by making her way out of a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon to pursue an education in Malta, this young Palestinian social entrepreneur has demonstrated that it is possible to break the cycle most refugees cannot get out of. As the featured speaker at a recent DGA lunch meeting. Hourie not only detailed the complicated plight of refugees- she herself was born and raised in a camp, but explained firsthand the monumental restrictions that refugees face. Their lack of official status and documentation makes it almost impossible to leave the camps, travel to a foreign country, get an education, find a job and realize the dream of a better life.

While in Malta on a student visa, Hourie also confronted the challenge of being a refugee and student in this European Union Member State. She described to DGA students and other invited guests her experience trying to move within the Maltese institutional system and the Maltese community as a refugee. Among the many challenges she faced were the limitations on learning placed on her and other refugees in terms of making it through the Maltese educational system, relying on her status as a student to be able to remain throughout university and having access to enough money to live under restrictive student stipend policies. She also described problems that other refugees in Malta face when confronted with language difficulties and having to work so much that they can’t remain at the University. In addition to this, Hourie was sensitive to that just as the Maltese community put distance between themselves and refugees, so too were the refugee community isolating themselves from the Maltese.

Faced with and having to deal with these challenges on a daily basis, Hourie saw a way to raise awareness about these problems through advocacy work; she coordinated with other individuals to co-found the NGO “Spark 15”. This organization’s main mission is to work with young refugees to facilitate their participation in society and become active members of the Maltese community. On the Maltese side, the NGO’s goal is to work with the Maltese community to understand more about refugee issues.  Among the main issues Hourie and co-founders are busy addressing is the lack of stable, integrative educational policies for refugees, the financial restrictions that make it impossible for students to keep studying, as well as language and other financial issues. Social media as well as the connection to the UNHCR and the Maltese President’s Foundation for Well-Being have played important roles in increasing the visibility of Hourie’s NGO. However, new re-settlement initiatives and increasingly restrictive mobility measures present big challenges to the important work being done by this social entrepreneur. 

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