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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 3:21 am    Post subject: INSTITUTIONAL ACTIVITIES IN SYRIA Reply with quote

Marriage classes empower women
Sarah Birke

Last Updated: August 01. 2009 12:31AM UAE / July 31. 2009 8:31PM GMT
Young Syrian women prepare for marriage by attending a bride school in Aleppo. Sarah Birke for The National

In a room off the courtyard of a restored school, tucked away in the winding maze of streets in Aleppo’s old city, girls in hijab and long coats jostle around a table to watch as their teacher explains how to make a Greek salad.

In an adjacent room, more faces focus expectantly on a whiteboard as the teacher takes them through English and Arabic sentence structure.

This is Aleppo’s school for brides-to-be, which has been running in the conservative neighbourhood of Qalat ash-Sharief for just over a year. The young Muslim girls are taught skills that will be useful when they marry – an inevitable eventuality in an economically and educationally poor area of the city where women are expected to take a traditional family role.

The subjects are broad, including literacy, embroidery, cooking, psychological awareness, first aid, child-raising and family health care, including the importance of breast-feeding. “We want to prepare the girls to be good wives and mothers,” said Rasha Arous, the programme’s manager at Aga Khan Cultural Services, part of the Aga Khan Development Network, which runs the school.

“At any age, marriage requires compromise and the emotional maturity to work through problems,” she said. “The younger the girls, the less used they are at doing so, especially when they have often spent a lot of time alone in the house with their family. We teach them how to communicate, such as the right way to approach their husbands and talk to them.”

But the school does more than just teach the girls how to compromise. It has also started a label for their embroidery which is sold in the city. “The very fact that the girls are allowed out of the home is an achievement. Most of the girls leave school by the age of 10 and are confined to the home to wait for a groom,” said Ms Arous.

A study carried out by her team last year put the average age of marriage for women in the area at 17. However, an initial survey in 2006 found it to be 15 – two years under the legal age for women (it is 18 for men) – and well below the average age of 25 calculated by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2008.

Locals say that when parents and religious leaders decide a couple are to marry, not much can be done to prevent it. In some cases, the marriage is not registered until the legal age is reached, in others documents are forged. According to Unicef Syria’s latest statistics, in 3.4 per cent of marriages the girl is 15 or under and in 17.7 per cent they are under 18. Of the country’s 14 governorates, Aleppo has the third highest rate of marriage for girls under 15.

So instead of trying to fight the practice, organisations are trying to make sure girls are better prepared.

“The girls face social, economic and educational issues,” said Razan Rashidi, a spokeswoman for Unicef in Syria. “For example, they are often not experienced in dealing with the emotions of marriage or sorting out problems.”

Last year’s intake of brides-to-be are now putting those lessons into practice. Qamar, 17, recently got engaged. She speaks shyly about the effect the classes have had on her. “I have learnt how to deal with my future husband and to bring up my children well,” she said. “I feel more confident about getting married.”

Aisha, 35, who accompanies her two daughters to the lessons, said she wished she could have attended such a school before her marriage.

“I have only just realised the importance of educating myself,” she said. “And I would have known how to stand up for myself and demand a bigger dowry!”

Before starting at the school, girls and their mothers were invited to meetings at the homes of local women and asked to draw pictures of themselves. They frequently depicted themselves as small and featureless in comparison to their husbands and brothers. Some drew themselves with speech bubbles proclaiming that they could not speak while one drew a ladder taking her away from her family.

Mothers were asked to writedown what issues they faced in their marriage and would have liked to known about beforehand. “The results varied enormously,” said Ms Arous. “Answers included not knowing how to deal with their husbands’ stubbornness, wanting more education, being worried that their husband no longer found them attractive because they were putting on weight as well as one who was frustrated at not being able to unveil at home because her brother-in-law lived there.”
The curriculum, based on these findings, is taught during three-hour classes spread throughout the week to reduce the number of times the girls need to leave the house.

When the school was founded the girls were eager, albeit nervous. But overcoming resistance in the community was a huge challenge. Ms Arous and her team spent six months getting to know the neighbourhood’s families, convincing community leaders of their plans and employing local teachers. They managed to get 30 girls enrolled in the school, 23 of whom attended regularly. This year a further 17 have joined.

Support for the bride school comes from surprising places. The neighbourhood’s sheikh, a jovial grandfather figure called Ahmed Abu Aaisa, describes the school as “a gift from God”. He said the community has not changed since 1970 when he became the area’s leader. But now, he said, he has noticed a shift in the attitudes of men.

“When it started many fathers and brothers came to me and told me ‘I won’t be letting my daughter or sister go to the bride school’. I told them to let them go. Knowledge is light. This programme is giving girls hope, friends and improving their marriages,” he said.

The girls agree. “It used to be tricky to attend lessons, but now if I am around the house for two consecutive days my parents ask me why I am not at the bride school,” one student, Lama, said.

* The National
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A new branch of micro-finance institution opens in Homs, Syria September 5, 2009
Posted by ismailimail in Agency for Microfinance, Middle East, Syria.

Original article in Arabic, translated via Google. – September 3, 2009

The Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM) opened its branch of first micro-finance institution in Homs Syria. The Resident Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network Mohammad Sipho (sp) said that the organization is working on two developmental social and conventional banking, adding that it “aimed at all citizens who have difficulty accessing bank services.”
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aga Khan Foundation in Syria Promotes Volunteerism

With First Lady's help, Syria wakes up to benefits of volunteerism
Sarah Birke
· Last Updated: February 06. 2010 12:35PM UAE / February 6. 2010 8:35AM GMT
DAMASCUS // In the courtyard of the Al Safina school for the disabled in the Old City of Damascus, a noisy class is taking place: music therapy. The classes help the school’s pupils to improve their concentration skills, using drums and maracas to count from one to 10 and following instructions to play loudly or quietly, quickly or slowly.

Leading the class with boundless enthusiasm is Khaled Korbaj, a 27-year-old masters student and volunteer with Family International Community Services, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) that runs the initiative. After the class, Mr Korbaj manages to squeeze in a lecture before donning a clown outfit for his weekly show at the children’s cancer hospital.
“I started to volunteer four years ago when someone told me that an extra clown was needed for the show and I love it,” he said.

After years of suppressing civic society and limiting the role of non-government groups, Syria is now hoping people such as Mr Korbaj will help propel the country forwards.

At a conference last month, the first lady, Asma al Assad, a long-time patron of Syria’s fledgling voluntary sector, said the government would set out a new legislative framework to allow non-governmental groups to partner with government agencies. While there are just 1,500 non-governmental groups, mainly charities, in Syria, against an estimated 3,500 to 5,000 in Lebanon or 2,000 in Jordan, the concept of volunteering has been slowly taking hold in Syria. And the trend is not confined to the capital.
In Damascus the Syrian Environmental Association (SEA) recently transformed a rubbish site into a botanical garden and arranges litter clean-ups. In Aleppo, the Aga Khan Foundation’s summer schools for children are run entirely by volunteers.

Justin Davis Smith of Volunteering England, a volunteering development agency in the UK, said: “Volunteering isn’t a western concept, people have been helping each other across all countries, cultures and religions for thousands of years."
Indeed, Syrians consider helping others and giving money to be central tenets of their religions – both Islam and Christianity.

The past two years in particular have brought volunteerism to mainstream attention. Humanitarian disasters in the region have been an impetus. The 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon and the 2003 invasion of Iraq led to a flood of refugees into Syria.

Signe Ejerskov, the former head of the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme in Syria, which recruited 70 young Syrians to work with the UN’s refugee agency, said it had a big effect.

“The influx of refugees led to a much greater interest in the UNV programme and volunteering in general,” she said.

Mrs Assad has been an active proponent of the voluntary sector. In 2007 she organised a conference on youth and volunteerism and under her patronage the Syria Trust for Development was founded the same year – Syria’s leading home-grown non-governmental organisation.

“The first lady is absolutely key to the trend,” said Nada Assaad, a social analyst, volunteerism expert and member of the cancer charity Basma.

“She has been proactive in encouraging volunteering groups and as a knock-on effect the ministry of social affairs has given permission to many new organisations,” Ms Assaad said.

She also points to rising affluence: “People’s lives have become more comfortable, which makes them more predisposed to helping the less fortunate in their communities.”

The effect has been overwhelming. Farah Hwijeh, the volunteer co-ordinator for the Syrian Environmental Organisation, said the organisation had received 20 times more inquiries from potential volunteers in the last year.

Those volunteering come from a diverse range of backgrounds and religions. What is noticeable is that the majority of the volunteers are young, aged 18 to 35, and many are female.
“It is definitely the youth who are volunteering as it is a concept they are now familiar with while older people are not,” said Ms Assaad. “And in my experience more women volunteer, perhaps because they are more sensitive to other people’s needs and because they are often at home during the day and have time.”

Having free time was commonly cited by volunteers, women especially, as a reason for joining groups. Nesreen Albtihe, a 25-year-old student who volunteers at summer camps for children run by the Aga Khan Foundation, said: “I didn’t have important things to do during my vacations and free time."

Doaa Halaage, 19, who volunteers at a similar camp in Aleppo, agrees. “I decided to volunteer to fill my free time,” she said. "“Before, I didn’t know what to do with it.”

Since the beginning of the recession and subsequent rise in unemployment, Volunteering England has seen an increase in inquiries, especially from young people finding it hard to enter the job market. Many turn to volunteering as an opportunity to gain work-based skills and career opportunities.

While the economic recession has not hit Syria as hard as elsewhere, young people still say that volunteerism has been a good way to gain experience.

“Volunteerism has taught me patience, communication skills and about people from different backgrounds,” Mr Korbaj said.

Volunteers at the SEA said they are learning about the environment, while many summer camp workers said they wanted to be teachers and had gained valuable experience of working with children.

What is still lacking, however, is the number of groups people can volunteer to work with. “Organised volunteerism is new,” Ms Assaad said.

“People were willing to give their time but they didn’t know how as there wasn’t the structured framework of civil organisations.”

It is this the government hopes to address. While the majority of volunteerism takes place through NGOs, the private sector also has started to contribute. Rather than simply giving a percentage of their profits to charity as in the past, many businesses now organise events.
For example, MAS Economic Group in 2008 organised a group of volunteers to pick up litter along the Syrian coast; last year it recruited people to plant trees to prevent desertification.

The government is waking up to the benefits of supporting volunteer groups. In its latest five-year plan it pledged to promote volunteerism and social engagement. Since last year, students applying to state universities have been asked to fill in details of the number of hours they have spent doing voluntary work.

“There is a realisation by the government that it can’t do everything. It sees that civil society can be useful to Syria’s development,” Ms Assaad said.

“For example, the government provides the medical treatment for cancer sufferers but Basma provides psychological care and entertainment.”

* The National
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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2010 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AKDN a major participant in the alleviation of poverty in Syria


“We are committed to reducing the number of people living in poverty by half by 2015,” Hijazi said. “There is a chapter on poverty and employment in the plan the SPC is preparing, along with a strategy for microfinance.”

Hijazi said poverty reduction initiatives in the next five-year plan would focus on extending microfinance throughout the country and rolling out major public infrastructure developments, providing much needed employment opportunities, via public-private partnerships (PPP). The AKDN is also taking a leading role in developing this form of investment.

“We are working closely with the government to develop the legal framework for these projects,” Mohamed Seifo, resident representative of the AKDN in Syria, said. “By doing that, we opened the door for other organisations to start their own projects under the PPP strategy.”

For the likes of Sukkar, however, direct government assistance is badly needed to help those battling to make ends meet.

“The time has come to put the social safety nets in place in the market economy,” he said.
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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AKRSP provides financial and technical support to alleviate water shortages in Salamieh

"The project, which has now been expanded and will continue to grow, was financed through the Aga Khan Foundation’s Rural Support Programme, which has been providing loans and equipment to help tackle the growing problem of water shortage in Salamieh since 2003."
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aga Khan Aims to Set a Good Example in a Threatened Historic District
June 8, 2010
By Frederick Deknatel

The Old City of Damascus, in Syria, might be a UNESCO World Heritage site, but in recent years money has poured in for new hotels and restaurants. Dozens are already open, while licenses have reportedly been granted for more than 150 hospitality projects across the half-square mile area. In some cases, old buildings were razed to make way for newly constructed establishments. Others involved the often-hasty restoration and conversion of historic courtyard houses. With a lack of technical expertise, cheap concrete has replaced stone and mud brick, and many developers decorate with a pastiche of Orientalist elements.

Photo by Matjaz Kacicnik/Aga Khan Development Network Click on the slide show icon to see additional photos.

Now the Aga Khan Development Network, the organization that promotes the preservation of Islamic heritage, is hoping to demonstrate a new development model for the area. The group is in the midst of slowly and judiciously restoring three of the Old City’s most splendid late-Ottoman houses: Beit Nizam (Nizam House), Beit Sibai, and Beit Kuwatli. All three will reopen collectively as a yet-to-be-named luxury hotel. According to Ali Esmail, CEO of Aga Khan Cultural Services in Syria, the AKDN wants “to bring to life those important historical assets” without comprising their architectural integrity.

The dwellings date to the mid-18th to late 19th centuries and once housed affluent merchant families and, in later years, the first European consuls to Damascus. They are mansions really, with sprawling courtyards, ornate receiving rooms, and the traditional, environmentally adaptive layout of traditional Damascene architecture. The high, open alcove, or liwan, off the courtyard stays shady throughout hot summer days, while interior and upstairs rooms receive sunlight through the winter, warming the mud brick and stone walls.

Begun in 2008 with an investment of $20 million, the AKDN project is slated to be finished in 2012. Galleries, cafés, and “showrooms” to Damascene architecture will fill the traditional greeting rooms on the ground floors of the two-story houses. Unlike some conversions that use concrete, the AKDN’s hotel will feature traditional building materials installed by skilled craftsmen.

Still the project worries some local residents and historians who admired the houses as informal museums. Even if the buildings are restored in earnest, they wonder who will patronize the new complex. “Who will go to these galleries and cafés?” said one veteran architect who asked to remain anonymous. “Surely not your average Syrian.”

The Old City is rife with debate over the pace of investment in recent years, and the AKDN’s project fits squarely into these popular discussions. “The idea of investing [in a hotel or restaurant] started in order to create money to finance the restoration [of the building],” said Naim Zabita, an architect. “But this should not be a target in itself, to come only for investment. We want to encourage more people to live in the old town, and it’s not easy because it’s becoming so expensive.”

A nation quickly losing its pariah status, at least commercially as it opens to Western tourism, Syria hosts a wealth of historical Arab residential architecture between the capital, Damascus, and the country’s second city, Aleppo, in the north. But much is in disrepair. The Old City’s classic Arab houses began emptying in the 1930s as wealthy families were attracted to modern, open-plan apartments in the new suburbs. Houses like Beit Nizam, Sibai, and Kuwatli were abandoned; some became warehouses and schools. Poorer, rural families that moved into Damascus for work filled them, as the real estate prices and population in the Old City shrank.

Yet as Syria’s socialist economy began to open up in the 1990s, the Old City became a development target. While the area is now a popular tourist destination, its historic architecture remains threatened. In 2002 and again in 2008, the World Monuments Fund put Old Damascus on its Watch List of heritage sites “threatened by neglect, demolition, or disaster.”

AKDN’s adaptive reuse project could demonstrate a good alternative. "We are hoping to introduce the project as a model to investors and the government as we finish every stage," Esmail said, “from documentation, to design, to restoration." If they succeed, the project could serve as an important benchmark for a country that is expanding its economy, largely through heritage tourism, while preserving its past.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Otri reviews cooperation with Aga Khan Development Network

08 July 2010

Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri on Thursday reviewed with prince Amin Aga Khan cooperation relations between Syria and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and spheres of bolstering them in cultural, social and health fields.

Talks also dealt with the projects carried out by the AKDN in Syria in the construction's development, restoration and rehabilitation of archeological building and sites and financing the micro and medium-sized projects regarding the agricultural, tourist and cultural industries.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of development agencies with mandates that include the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities. AKDN agencies conduct their programmes without regard to faith, origin or gender.

© SANA (Syria Arab News Agency) 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Imamat institutions a catalyst for the economic and cultural revival of Aleppo

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Aleppo, Syria
Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:00am GMT
Print | Single Page[-] Text [+] By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

ALEPPO Syria, July 16 (Reuters Life!) - Architectural gems spanning a sweep of human history hide behind nondescript doors in Syria's second city. Understated carpets are prized by collectors and the cuisine incorporates ancient influences from as far away as China. Subtlety is the hallmark of Aleppo, one of the world's richest historical sites whose inhabitants possess a quiet pride and a cosmopolitan culture that has survived Mongol destruction and steady economic decline.

The city, built around a vast medieval citadel, was wrapped in obscurity for decades by Soviet-style policies which undermined its business classes and the city's reputation as a culinary capital of the Middle East.

But the trading hub of Silk Road fame has been witnessing a renaissance lately, driven by economic liberalisation and an opening towards Turkey, Aleppo's neighbour to the north.

Tasteful hotels and restaurants are opening up in and around the once-walled city, itself built on layers of much older ruins. Medieval districts have been renovated with the help of the Agha Khan, and other international organisations working to save the United Nations World Heritage Site.

Reuters correspondents help visitors to get the most of out of a 48-hour visit.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Making our homes smoke-free

Under the slogan of “Making our homes smoke-free”, the Health Program of the Aga Khan Foundation, AKF, which is one of the Aga Khan Development Network, AKDN, agencies, organized an activity-filled public event in the content of its anti-smoking campaign on June 3rd in the city of Salamieh in the governorate of Hama.

This public event aims to raise awareness regarding the harms of smoking in all its forms and to shed light on the negative consequences of smoking by focusing especially on banning smoking inside homes.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SYRIA: Microfinance to combat drought
Tuesday October 05, 2010
Photo: UN
Up to 1.3 million people are affected by drought in Syria (file photo)
DAMASCUS, 5 October 2010 (IRIN) - Farmers and herders are being targeted with microfinance in an effort to relieve drought-related poverty in Syria. Widely used across the developing world since the 1970s, Syria has relatively few providers.

“Microfinance can be an important tool for relieving poverty and improving livelihoods both by directly raising income and indirectly increasing the sense of empowerment or ability to access education,” said Mohammed Khaled, Middle East and North Africa representative of the Washington DC-based Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).

Over 1.3 million people have been affected by the drought which started in 2006, according to the UN. Last month UN Special Rapporteur Oliver de Schutter said 2-3 million people had been pushed into extreme poverty in Syria, with many thousands having left the northeast region for the cities, with no source of income.

Microfinance initiatives are targeting both those who have moved to the cities and those who have remained in the area.

In drought-prone areas the Aga Khan Foundation is working with its subsidiary, the First Microfinance Institution (FMFI). FMFI provides 25 percent of its loans, which range from SYP 3,000-150,000 (US$65-3,247), to the agricultural sector. Much of the microfinance is targeted at measures to combat drought.

“We have concentrated efforts on improving the productivity and efficiency of water used for agricultural use,” said Mohamed Seifo, head of the Aga Khan Development Network in Syria. "FMFI has given loans to farmers to adopt modernized drip irrigation systems."

Drip irrigation is more efficient than surface irrigation, with 90 percent of water used by the plants, compared to less that 60 percent with the latter.

These new systems save water and increase production, and have indirect effects such as increased incomes, reduced labour, reduced costs for fuel and the elimination of the need to build costly water holding tanks.

Help for herders

Herders have been given loans to purchase new livestock - 80-85 percent of animals were wiped out by the drought, according to UN figures - or to buy fodder.

General loans are also being given for drought victims to start businesses. FMFI has given loans to more than 75,000 families in over 180 villages while a new bank, Ibdaa, was launched last month.

Experts warn that while microfinance can be useful it has limitations in terms of responding to drought victims’ needs.

“Microfinance is not a solution for everyone as not every poor person can be an entrepreneur,” said Khaled of CGAP. “We see around 25-30 percent of businesses successfully reinvesting and growing.”

Khaled also said it may be better to give grants. "Loans can cost more in terms of organization and may not be paid back, which can affect the whole lending culture."

Experts also told IRIN that farmers should not be encouraged by microfinance to go back into livelihoods where they are unsustainable.

Microfinance has been underdeveloped in Syria. Only 41,500 out of a potential one million microfinance recipients were reached in 2008, according to a study by CGAP.

However, while its expansion is being advocated, some academics, such as Milford Bateman, have argued that there is no clear proof that microfinance works.

“Syria needs more institutions but we have hopes they will grow,” said Khaled. “People can argue about the effectiveness of small loans, but people have a right to access credit.”

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agha Khan Development Network, French Embassy Sign Cooperation Agreement

Oct 27, 2010

Damascus, (SANA)- The Agha Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the French Embassy in Damascus signed on Wednesday a partnership agreement to lay down a comprehensive framework for cooperation in development projects in Syria which encompasses many vital sectors.

The agreement includes a framework for mutual cooperation in micro-finance, tourism, culture, regional planning, health, education, traffic safety, rural and industrial development.

Resident Representative of AKDN in Syria Mohammad Seifo said the agreement is an integrated model for mutual cooperation between two pioneers in development work and an example to follow in launching similar initiatives in the 36 countries in which the network operates.

He added that the agreement enables the two sides to cooperate in various aspects, which will reflect positively on performance in terms of work and finance, thus helping achieve development goals.

Seifio added that a number of joint cooperation projects are currently studied, some of which are underway in the fields of education, health, culture and micro-loans.

The French Ambassador in Damascus Eric Chevalier described the agreement as ''very important'' in terms of its timing and framing cooperation to put the potential of the two sides together to develop the joint development aspects.

Director of the French Development Agency in Syria Philippe Lecrinier said the agreement deepens partnership between the Agency and Agha Khan Network to define the approaches and strategies of future work, adding that it is an extension of the cooperation agreement signed between the French Foreign Ministry and the Chairman of AKDN.

Agha Khan Development Network operates in 7 Syrian provinces with focus on institutional support, rural development, cultural tourism, health, education, loans and promoting the concept of economic development.

The French Development Agency is a development and finance institution founded in 1941. It is aimed at financing development projects according to the French government's policies for foreign aid. Its activities aim at enhancing sustainable economic development.

M. Ismael/Haifa
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2011 2:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agha Khan Network to Boost Sustainable Development and Volunteering Conceptions

DAMASCUS, (SANA) – Agha Khan Network for Development has worked in cooperation with government authorities concerned to boost the conception of sustainable development and empower local communities and spread the conception of volunteering and partnership.

In a report on its activities in Syria from 2010 to April 2011, the Network pointed out that its work included all sectors: culture, education, health, rural development small loans, tourism and social development.

The report clarified that about 42,863 people have benefited from the Network's activities.

Concerning culture, the report said the Agha Khan Establishment for Cultural Services continued to work in three heritage sites in the old city of Damascus.

The report added that the Network's efforts in the field of health targeted several axes. The Network continued its support to the nursing faculty in Hama province in addition to other significant projects.

In the field of social health, the report said the Network has been active in launching campaigns for reducing smoking and driving safety as well as women and children health.

Fadi Allafi /Mazen Eyon
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Small Loans, Big Business

Can microfinance help solve Syria's poverty problem?

In towns and villages across the country, Syria's small but growing band of microfinance institutions (MFIs) are going about their business, offering loans to the poor, the marginalised and the drought-affected.

Through local officers, they provide loans as small as SYP 10,000 (USD 210) to individuals and communities who have few assets to provide as collateral, but who need the money to start small businesses such as market stalls, to pay for medical treatment or to invest in new farming equipment.

"The aim is to improve the quality of life for the majority of Syrians who are denied access to mainstream financial services," David James, chief executive of the First Microfinance Institution-Syria (FMFI-S), the country's largest micro-lender and part of the Aga Khan Development Network, explained.

He said that up to 90 percent of Syrians do not have adequate access to loans and other financial services, despite the recent growth in the traditional banking sector. There is therefore a high demand and potential for growth in the micro-lending market.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2011 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nestled in the Heart of Old Aleppo… Al-Shebani School Produced Many Prominent Figures

Aug 25, 2011

ALEPPO, (SANA) – The antique Al-Shebani School is one of the most important schools and historic landmarks in the city of Aleppo due to its religious, cultural and social significance and its various activities.

The school is located in the historic heart of Aleppo near central marketplaces and the oldest district in it; al-Jalloum district. Languages, commerce and mathematics were taught at the school, producing several prominent figures such as Dr. Nazem al-Qudsi and many doctors, architects and lawyers.

Headmaster Ali Nasser said that the school was restored as part of a project for reviving the Old City in Aleppo, with the restoration beginning in 1994 and concluding in 2006.


The project also entailed using the school for holding cultural and social activities and events in cooperation with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), including children festivals, awareness campaigns and youth training workshops.

A part of the school is dedicated to documenting Aleppo's architectural, cultural and social history.

Another part of the school also serves as a gallery for pictures, dioramas and schematics carried out by the German Development Agency (GIZ) in the Old City, in addition to hosting an institute for teaching German language in cooperation with the German Embassy in Damascus.

According to scholar Abdullah Hajjar, the school is named after an Arab clan originating from Koufa. The clansmen lived in Aleppo and left behind many structures such as Dar al-Hadith near al-Fardous Mosque, Khan al-Shebani inn, and al-Shebani bathhouse.

Hajjar pointed out that teaching at the school began by French monks in 1859, noting that the school was used as a storage facility in 1937 before it was renovated and made a permanent museum and a center for cultural and social activities.

H. Sabbag
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

70 Children Participate in "Students' Creations" Exhibition in Aleppo

Sep 24, 2011

ALEPPO, (SANA)- "Students' Creations" exhibition opened on Saturday in the old city of Aleppo, organized by Agha Khan Cultural Services (AKCS) in cooperation with the Culture Directorate, with the participation of 70 basic education students.

The exhibition, lasting for the 30th of September, displayed 70 paintings which reflected the beauty of the Syrian natural landscapes within a colorful plastic space depicting the dreams, hopes and future visions of the students.

Ali Ismael, the Executive Chief of the AKCS, said this activity is part of the social and economic program carried out by the institution and comes within the framework of the human capabilities building program.

The program works by means of training the participants in educational, health, economic and social issues and includes the rehabilitation of a number of Syrian sites, including Aleppo Citadel, and the restoration of old houses and sites and turning them into archeological sites.

Flora Habib, in charge of the social and economic development program at the AKCS, said the main objective of this activity is enhancing the role of civil institutions in the various fields of social and cultural development and upgrading the level of interaction among the children participating in the exhibition.

H. Said
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