When it comes to mountains, Ayat El Dewary has little to expect—she’s never climbed one. But in a few weeks, she’ll be going up the highest mountain in Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro. Her motivation is to help displaced children in Syria.
“It is important for us to understand that what happens to one child affects all children of the world,” El Dewary says over the phone from Abu Dhabi.
An Egyptian-Canadian national, El Dewary graduated from Dalhousie in 2004 and is currently an external relations associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Abu Dhabi. She is raising funds for the UAE’s Big Heart Campaign in hopes of making a difference in the lives of the children affected by the ongoing Syrian crisis.
“The funds will go towards things such as child protection, as well as providing educational services and shelter. Right now, winter items are very necessary to help them cope with the weather,” El Dewary says.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are over 1.1 million Syrian children who are registered as refugees, a result of the Syrian crisis started in 2011. Most of the refugees have fled to neighbouring countries facing conflicts of their own, such as Egypt and Iraq.
A recent report released by the UNHCR says one in 10 Syrian refugee children are working “as breadwinners.” Also, 75 per cent of Syrian refugee children are under 12 years old.
“It’s the worst humanitarian crisis in the 21st century,” says El Dewary.
“I’m hoping others feel the urge to do the same. To be inspired to do something for those children. That generation of children is facing the risk of becoming a lost generation.”
El Dewary is training full-time for her upcoming 10-day expedition, something that requires both mental and physical preparation. Her training involves stair climbing, running, lifting weights and climbing sand dunes.
In her first two weeks, El Dewary managed to raise $6,000, which has since grown to $7,500. She is now hoping to raise the bar of her fundraising goal after a successful start.
“Initially the target was $10,000. But now I want to raise more,” she says.
For her, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, but El Dewary is hoping that the message behind it will last much longer.
“The main message is to show [Syrian refugees] that they are not alone. Just because they are refugees does not mean that it is a life sentence. The world is going to be there in solidarity.”
To learn more and to donate to Ayat’s cause, visit her page here.