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Toronto foundation helps Syrian girls in education

15 young women from Syria will continue university studies in Canada thanks to Daughters For Life Foundation.

Daughters for Life Foundation founder Izzeldin Abuelaish, centre, and the five Syrian girls who arrived in Toronto last week to continue their education.

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Daughters for Life Foundation founder Izzeldin Abuelaish, centre, and the five Syrian girls who arrived in Toronto last week to continue their education.

They were studying science, business or medicine, but the war forced many young Syrian girls and their families into refugee camps, shattering some of their big dreams.

Now a Toronto-based charity is trying to keep those dreams alive.

Five female students arrived in Toronto last week after winning full-time scholarships to continue their education in Canada. They’re the first of 15 selected as part of an initiative spearheaded by the Daughters for Life Foundation.  

“The goal for this organization is to try to give life from death, to give hope from pain,” said the charity’s founder Izzeldin Abuelaish.

The foundation itself is a product of tragedy. Abuelaish was a practicing doctor in Palestinian hospitals when an Israeli tank shelled his home in Gaza and killed three of his daughters and a niece in early 2009.

He later moved to Toronto and started the foundation in memory of his daughters. His belief is that lasting peace in the Middle East can only be achieved through the education of young women. Since 2010, the foundation has sent nearly 400 girls from Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Syria to post-secondary education around the world.

The five girls – Alaa Alakel, Asmaa Labbad, Aya Hammoud, Ayaat Labbad and Raneem Kanaan – will study English at the International Language Academy of Canada for a year before heading into universities. They’ll be expected to return to Syria and contribute to the country’s growth.  

“Canada opened its arms for me, and I just hope these young women become successful,” said Abuelaish. “They have the potential to make a difference in rebuilding their country.”

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