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Yana looking at her 6th-grade certificate. (JRS)

Damascus, 14 March 2018 – Her eyes filled with love and gratitude as she uttered joyfully, "Look what I got!" Yana* entered the reception room of the JRS Ibrahim Muslih Centre and proudly displayed the fruit of her labour and hard work: a certificate for having completed the 6th grade.

In 2012, Yana, a 51-year-old woman, was displaced from eastern Ghouta to another area of Damascus with her husband and two of their children. It was not until Yana settled in the neighbourhood of Dwelaa in Damascus that she realised how much she needed to know how to read and write.

"When I opened one of my children's books and did not know what's inside, I felt sorry for my situation," she explained.

According to the customs and traditions of that time, girls were not allowed to go to school or even leave the house alone.

When she moved to Damascus, she started sewing, but she was not happy because she did not know how to read the numbers on the measuring tape. So, she started memorising the numbers herself.

Soon she learned about the JRS Ibrahim Musleh Centre in Dwelaa and registered for the beginner’s literacy workshop. Once she finished the beginner and advanced levels at the centre, one of her friends advised her to enroll in a course at a different centre so she could get her primary school certificate and complete her education. Yana didn’t think about it too much but went and did the placement test anyway – from there her life began to change.

Her husband, Delavan, who does not know how to read or write, was her main supporter. He would test her by simply trying to spell the words. When asked about his wife’s studies, Delavan said her notebook seemed to be the most precious thing she had, “I felt like she was telling me that I can read, write and do calculations like everyone else.”

She did very well in her final exam, demonstrating how much her endless hope, confidence, and determination have allowed her to overcome.

Now, Yana is studying the 7th and 8th grades intensively, dreaming of getting her 9th-grade certificate.  

At the beginning of her arrival at the JRS Ibrahim Musleh Centre, Yana was not even ready to learn a single letter, but with solidarity from the JRS team, she is full of confidence in her capabilities. Now she believes that every person has opportunity and possibility, but that personal development  is impossible if people are not encouraged and given support.

"When I was here in this centre, I felt like I was among my sisters and my family…the brothers here helped me get out of the circle of grief caused by the war in our country and they made me trust in my possibilities.”

*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals

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