Project Al Caravan was established in the beginning of 2013. It is now 8 fixed houses and 4 mobile caravans dedicated to educational, entertainment and cultural workshops. Syrian children, their family and youth in Syria attend these events. Mobile Caravans drive around the refugee camps in Syria and in the cities of Idleb, Aleppo, Latakia, Homs, Damascus and Daraa.
Khaldoun Albatal , 31 is the co-founder of Al Caravan Project. He is Syrian, originally from Damascus. Khaldoun escaped to Turkey and moved recently to Beirut to develop the project in Lebanon. He is a very friendly and committed person with many ideas and challenges. I really enjoyed meeting him and I wanted to know more about him and his project.
I had the great opportunity to meet him and ask him some questions during my tour in Lebanon.
About the writer – Maëva comes from Lyon and has been volunteering with MakeSense for 2 years. She used to work for social entrepreneurs in South Asia (Vietnam, Philippines). #Education, #WomenEmpowerment, #Refugees.
Why a caravan?
The caravan allows us to follow the refugee flow through Syria. It also provides a safe place for educational activities. Most refugees fled their city’s bombing for rural areas, so we need to be there. But they are constantly on the move, going from camp to camp.
Currently, we have more than 100 people on the Caravan Project team, including engineers as well as technicians. We built the caravans ourselves. Thanks to many volunteeers, the project is developing quickly. The caravans are well equipped (with solar panels, computers, …). Generally, a Caravan cost 6,000 €. In Syria, we have now 4 mobile caravans. 8 differents houses let us borrow their land for free.
Khaldoun in one of the caravan with attentive children
How did you start this project?
Before the war in Syria, I was a member of different youth associations. Working to improve society has always been a part of me. I did my studies in the field of education as well as culture; I’m also a filmmaker. I started the project with 2 friends during the revolution. One of these friends died because of the war, and another moved to Germany. Now, I keep going on with all the volunteers.
The project was first dedicated to assist the children, who are internally displaced refugees. We create activities with a positive focus to involve the children in something else than war. I’m convinced that we need this in order to help this generation.
As we notice, the families – especially the mothers – were also very interested in our project and wanted to be part of it. We also developed micro-economical activities for them. For example, they sew clothing and sell the products afterwards. And if they detect any particular needs such as schoolbags for the children, then they will create it. For every case we provide the raw materials.
Children running around around a caravan
At which stage of development are you on now?
The project is developing on a constant basis. Some months ago we were requested to create workshops and activities for young adults. We currently are working on it.
German cooperation contacted us because there are 200 refugee camps in Germany. So it makes sense to develop the Al Caravan project in the country.
We currently run 15 programs, most of them focused on children. In addition to education support programs, we also provide psychological support and healthcare programs. We train volunteers to learn how to deal with challenging cases too. The quarterly education programs are focused on arts, theater, and music.
We have a Media Team that produces brochures, printed materials, and audio-visual media on which Al Caravan has a particular expertise. The team created a book with children who experienced war : “From Knock Knock Till Bye Bye”. In this book the children share their story, their wishes and drawings. A bookstore in Turkey is already selling this book, and we are planning to print many others. It is translated in Arabic, Turkish and English.
How do you finance all the activities?
We receive grants from donations, international NGO, and we also create partnerships with other NGO to finance projects.
I will also launch a crowdfunding campaign, and I’m figuring out how to create revenue from our activities in order to create more caravans and therefore to reach more beneficiaries. So maybe the MakeSense community could help me with this challenge? (Yes, we will! editor’s note)