Although Syrian refugees struggle to receive an education, not all hope is lost! Paper Airplanes, an online tutoring program dedicated to teaching and assisting Syrian refugees, aims to enhance students’ English language skills and to prepare university-level students for the TOEFL and IELTS exams.
The program matches students with tutors for one-on-one sessions that are conducted via Skype. The program provides a “blend of language exercises, speech instructions, and cultural and personal conversations.” Unlike other tutoring programs for the TOEFL and IELTS, Paper Airplanes is free of charge, giving an opportunity for all interested Syrian refugees. BarakaBits got in contact with Paper Airplanes’ founder to find out more!
Bailey Ulbricht, the program’s founder and president, told BarakaBits that the programs’ beneficiaries are “located throughout the Middle East region and in Europe – inside of Syria, in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Sweden, Germany, and a few in Canada.” The program is hoping to work with beneficiaries inside of the U.S. soon.
Ulbricht speaks of how she started Paper Airplanes in a newsletter. She explains that after reading in The New York Times about a school in Damascus being bombed, spending time with the refugees in a town called Reyhanli on the Turkish-Syrian border, and befriending and maintaining communication with college-aged Syrians, she wanted to help from the U.S. She told BarakaBits,
“Word spread through the community that I was Skyping people to help with their English, and I soon had too many people to Skype. Paper Airplanes grew from this process. The first session we ran had only 10 students and tutors, but each term we ran we grew exponentially, as more people wanted to volunteer. For our fall session we had over 600 tutor applicants – more than double our previous numbers.”
According to Paper Airplanes website, there are currently 17 members running the program with 53 tutors from 30 different universities in 15 states in the US and 7 other countries. There are over 120 pairs of tutors and students bound together by the program.
“The goal is to target university aged students, but many are a bit older (late 20s) and some younger. We remain committed to providing students English lessons, but our goal is also to promote cultural exchange and expand educational access through the digital sphere. We’re continuing to diversify the courses we offer and expand our reach,” Ulbricht said to BarakaBits.
You can find some of their testimonies on how the program has been progressing for them here.
The program does not intend to stop here! Ulbricht explained to BarakaBits that Paper Airplanes is on its way to becoming an official nonprofit organization in the United States.
“Once we receive that legal status, we are hoping to hire a few part-time workers and improve our platform, develop a broader web presence and diversify our programs. We’re hoping to continue providing nontraditional educational support online, providing mentorship, language support, and subject teaching. We would love to link our beneficiaries to scholarships and universities as well.”
If you’re aiming to empower students and foster relationships between cultures, as is the mission of Paper Airplanes, keep a lookout for future Tutoring application submissions on Paper Airplanes’ website and Facebook page.
Everyone has a right to education, even if it has to be through Skype!
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