Child Soldiers in Syria
Since 2011, war has ravaged Syria and drastically changed the lives of millions, especially for children. An estimated 2.6 million Syrian children now live in other nations as refugees. More than one million of the refugee children do not have access to education, and an additional 1.75 million children who remain in Syria also do not attend school. Millions of Syrian children live in extreme poverty, which drives them to become soldiers in an extremely dangerous conflict.

The Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Syria

The recruitment of children under the age of 18 by armed groups has been rising in Syria as the war continues. In 2016 alone, 851 children were recruited to be child soldiers in Syria. In that same year, 652 children died and 647 were maimed, and these numbers are rapidly rising. In January and February of 2018, 1,000 children were killed or injured in the Syrian conflict.

Some of these child soldiers have been kidnapped by armed groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS). Others are young Arabs or Muslims from Europe who have been convinced by radical groups like ISIS to leave their homes and join the fight against the Syrian government. Many, however, are children in Syria or in refugee camps in neighboring countries who have volunteered to become soldiers.

Syrian children often volunteer to become soldiers because of the dire situations in which their families live, situations caused by the war. By 2015, 80 percent of Syria’s population lived below the poverty line, and the situation has continued to worsen. With the unemployment rate in the country at 57.7 percent at the beginning of 2015, millions are struggling to survive. In addition, more than 90 percent of refugee families in Lebanon are at risk of food insecurity, and 80 percent in Jordan live in poverty.

For these families that are struggling to survive, the benefits that armed groups offer child soldiers in Syria can be life-saving. Some parents believe their only option is to send their children to fight for ISIS or ISIS-affiliated groups in return for financial subsidies. Other children join the Free Syrian Army (FSA), one of the main rebel groups fighting the Syrian government. The FSA provides its fighters with monthly benefits including salaries. Additionally, the FSA offers refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp precedence in receiving food aid and cash assistance that are crucial to their survival.

Providing a Solution

Alleviating Syrian poverty could be a crucial step in reducing the number of child soldiers in Syria. This could be done by providing Syrians with humanitarian aid, like helping them get food and homes and jobs. Children will be less vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups if they and their families are living in more stable situations.

The United States is mobilizing humanitarian aid to provide food, water, education and medical services to Syrian children and their families. International aid and the acceptance of refugees are also key. However, the “humanitarian needs inside Syria continue to outpace the international response.” Increased aid from the U.S. and other nations is key to relieving poverty in Syria and surrounding nations and reducing the number of children that are recruited to be soldiers.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

Starving Syrians “Starvation is a different level of abhorrence because it is a slow, gruesome death”. -Dr. Leah Carmichael

The Syrian Civil War seems more and more hopeless as Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his regime gain more power over insurgents and civilians by intentionally starving them and using biological and chemical warfare. With Russian support, Assad has been able to avoid punishment for his war crimes and consequently gain more power.

The Syrian refugee crisis is probably the most notorious aspect of this ongoing war. As per UNHCR, there are 13.1 million people in need of humanitarian aid in Syria. More than five million Syrians have fled the country; however, there are still more than six million that have left their homes and are homeless within their country.

Further, the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reports that there are 6.5 million starving Syrians.

Despite Syria’s seemingly grim future, non-governmental agencies like Mercy Corps have stepped up to help in addition to governmental programs. Mercy Corps helps feed hundreds of thousands of people each month by donating flour to local bakeries and ensuring that people in need are able to get bread from the bakeries.

Nonetheless, Mercy Corps has faced some setbacks, as the Assad regime does not want it to assist starving Syrians. Dr. Leah Carmichael stated that “one of the main roles of the government is to ensure a food supply”.

Dr. Carmichael is a respected professor at the University of Georgia and a food insecurity expert. She has been researching the puzzle of Assad’s starvation war tool to determine why governments starve their people to gain power and later want their people’s support. She is also interested in the role of Mercy Corps in replenishing food for the Syrian people. The Borgen Project had the privilege of interviewing her on March 2, 2018, to gain more insight into the current situation and Mercy Corps.

“Food is really one of those things where if you’re hungry and you weren’t before, it catalyzes that kind of protest [referencing the Arab Spring, the start of the Syrian Civil War],” Carmichael stated in the interview. “Understanding that food is a major provision of welfare for a government and then understanding that the tactic of taking food away and making people hungry is either unintentionally or intentionally a way which governments lose their authority to rule”.

As for Mercy Corps shaping the outcome of the Syrian civil war, Carmichael says it is unintentional yet powerful in helping starving Syrians because “as much as you are keeping civilians alive, you are shaping the future legacy of this war as not just being one where the international community turned a blind eye as mass genocide occurred…as in this case, Mercy Corps is shaping the human side of it.”

However, Carmichael mentioned that Mercy Corps’ role is still a “drop in the bucket” in comparison to what a government could do. She said that everyday people can help this situation by determining “what active role if any should the U.S. play abroad”.

She also mentioned that a growing norm is starting to emerge in the international community called the responsibility to protect, “the idea is that pure sovereignty matters for states, but in the cases where you see sovereignty being used to promote genocide, the international community has a responsibility to step in to protect those people against their government”.

Thus, public pressure to take action could lead the U.S. to possibly intervene. However, public support is withering in terms of U.S. global intervention. As Carmichael stated in a 2017 TEDx Talk, “the abject horror of war is our indifference to it”. Doing good and helping people in need is very much “something that we as Americans like on paper.”

Suzy Hansen from the Washington Post shares a similar view in that Americans under President Trump are beginning to dislike more intervention as an “America First” ideal grows. Further, Americans are learning more about the “darker” parts of American history that have resulted from U.S. intervention, such as U.S.-backed coups. This suggests that many Americans are re-thinking the global role of the U.S., as intervention has the potential to cause more harm than good and can negatively impact relations and foreign policy.

To help starving Syrians, it seems that the international system needs to intervene, as Russian-led peace talks may only prolong suffering. However, “what to do” will prove to be a difficult and methodological decision to make.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

refugees in Lebanon
Following the Syrian crisis, there has been a sizeable loss of the records on state affairs in Lebanon. The last conducted assessment took place in 2011, prior to the presence of refugees in Lebanon. This lack of gathered information has prevented the successful strategizing of poverty reduction and a definite increase in the total impoverished.

Assessment of Poverty in Lebanon

The assessment of 2011 estimates poverty in Lebanon to be 27 percent; however, that number is believed to have climbed with the introduction of more refugees to Lebanon. Palestinian refugees were already highly impoverished before the conflict in Syria, with two-thirds qualifying as poor or extremely poor. According to the Palestinian Return Centre:

  • The poverty line was determined as “$6 a day, which allows to cover basic food and non-food requirements of an adult refugee”
  • The extreme poverty line was determined as “$2.17 [which] allows purchasing enough food to satisfy the daily basic food needs of an adult Palestine refugee.”

Many refugees, however, are unable to meet even these minuscule thresholds. In this study of 2011, 65 percent of refugees are considered impoverished, and 6.6 percent are considered extremely impoverished, subsisting on less than $2 a day.

In addition to these statistics, there are a few schisms dividing those in poverty in Lebanon:

  • A staggering 56 percent of refugees in Lebanon are unemployed; in that number, there also exists high gender inequity
  • 65 percent of men are employed
  • Only 13 percent of women are employed 
  • Beirut, Nabatieh and Mount Lebanon have lower rates of poverty and extreme poverty
  • Beirut has 0.67 percent extreme poverty and 5.85 percent of poverty
  • Bekaa, South and North, in contrast, have a much higher rate of poverty
  • North has 17.75 percent extreme poverty and 52.57 percent poverty

In addition to the above, the regional divide data is from before the influx of refugees in Lebanon and has conclusively increased as well. The poverty rates in Lebanon are not dispersed equally among the people, but rather a heavy burden on certain areas and aspects of society.

Rapid Poverty Assessment and Lebanon Crisis Response Plan

The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that in 2018, 58 percent of refugee households now live in extreme poverty, and an overall 76 percent of refugees in Lebanon live below the general poverty line. These statistics continue to climb, but the Rapid Poverty Assessment of the UNDP aims to not only document updated numbers, but to also develop strategies and a plan to increase efforts against rising poverty, especially the rising poverty of refugees in Lebanon.

The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, while a commendable humanitarian response to the rising issues, will need to actively increase efforts to quite an extent. The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that another $2.7 billion will be needed to make the plan and approach effectual in implementation in Lebanon.

If the Rapid Poverty Assessment can successfully create a strategy to curb such rising poverty and a highly concentrated focus on the refugees in Lebanon can combine with a greater source of financial aid, then an innumerable amount of lives will be both benefitted, and saved.

– Lydia Lamm

Photo: Flickr

When many Americans hear “Morocco,” they likely conjure up the image of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart standing on an airplane tarmac in Casablanca. Almost four decades after the release of the movie, the impact of refugees escaping Moroccan forces has become an ingrained issue among northwest African countries. The following 10 facts explain the fascinating history of refugees in Morocco, both those running away from the North African nation and those running to it.

10 Facts About Refugees in Morocco

  1. Morocco, long controlled by Spain, earned independence from France in 1956. In 1976, Morocco laid claim to the Western Sahara, an area south of Morocco, after Spain withdrew from the territory.
  2. This action incited a decades-long war between Morocco and the Polisario Front, Western Sahara’s liberation movement, that lasted until 1991 when the United Nations brokered a cease-fire.
  3. The suspension of hostilities left Morocco with de facto control over two-thirds of Western Sahara. As a result, thousands of refugees from Western Sahara fled to Tindouf, Algeria.
  4. 2016 data from the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that 90,000 Western Saharan refugees remain in camps in Tindouf, Algeria. They have not returned to their native region because a referendum to vote on the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco — promised in the 1991 U.N. cease-fire — has yet to occur.
  5. While the situation seems desperate, many of the refugees remain hopeful that they will one day return to their homeland. They consider themselves to be a democratic movement and strive for gender equality. A U.N. program flies the refugees back to Western Sahara for short-term visits.
  6. Algeria, where the Western Saharan refugees now live, has a historically strained relationship with its neighbor, Morocco. Most recently, 41 Syrian refugees were stuck between the borders of the two countries for weeks until Algeria accepted them.
  7. The North African nation has received an influx of refugees since the start of the Syrian civil war, signaling a new chapter for refugees in Morocco. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than half of the 6,000 refugees and asylum-seekers currently in Morocco are from Syria.
  8. The UNHCR works with public and private partners to provide assistance to these refugees. The Moroccan Ministry of Education, for instance, guarantees the right of all children to enroll in primary classes, regardless of legal status.
  9. Morocco currently extends protection from deportation to most refugees and migrants, even if they entered the country illegally.
  10. Most of these refugees attempt to use Morocco as a means to enter Europe, believing that it is the safest passage, though most end up waiting for months in cramped immigration centers. About 200 refugees make the crossing to Europe each week.

As the number of refugees continues to swell and the fear of terrorism increases, the status of refugees in Morocco will be questioned. Nonetheless, the Moroccan government and the global community remain committed to finding a long-term solution so that the rights of each refugee are recognized and that they have a place to call home. Refugees continue to impact northwestern Africa in numerous ways.

Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr

Doctors Without BordersIn discussing the origins of Doctors without Borders, Bernard Kouchner, its founder stated that “It’s simple really: go where the patients are. It seems obvious, but at the time it was a revolutionary concept because borders got in the way. It is no coincidence that we called it Medecins Sans Frontiers.”

Doctors Without Borders was conceived by a group of young doctors that decided to go and help victims of wars and major disasters during the period of upheavals in Paris in 1968.

In 1971, Raymond Borel and Philippe Bernier, journalists from the medical review Tonus, “issued an appeal to establish a band of doctors to help the suffering in the midst and the wake of major disasters.”

Doctors Without Borders was officially created on December 22, 1971 with about 300 volunteers including doctors, nurses and other staff including the 13 founders such as Dr. Jacques Beres, Phillipe Bernier, Raymond Berel and Dr.Jean Cabrol, among others.

The organization is predicated on the belief that all people have the right to medical care regardless of “gender, race, religion, creed or political affiliation and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries.”

Since 1991, Doctors Without Borders has been working in Haiti and its teams have “tended to patients, assisted in births and provided access to medical care for hundreds of thousands of Haitians who otherwise would have gone without.”

In Syria, Doctors Without Borders was able to provide medical supplies to networks of doctors already in the country whilst trying to lay the groundwork to provide direct medical care to the victims of the war in that country.

In Nigeria the organization’s staff responded to outbreaks of measles and meningitis, especially in the northern region of the country, and often had to travel to remote areas to reach patients.

In Sierra Leone and Burundi, where death during childbirth has been a serious problem, Doctors Without Borders was able to create programs that set up “free of charge central referral facilities and emergency ambulance services to bring women from remote health centers to hospitals where they could deliver safely 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” These programs operated in Sierra Leone’s Bo District and Burundi‘s Kabezi District.

Thanks to Doctors Without Borders, many lives have been saved because they “reject the idea that poor people deserve third-rate medical care and strive to provide high quality health care to patients.” It is not surprising that they received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.

Vanessa Awanyo

Photo: Flickr 

On March 11, humanitarian leaders from the United Nations and the World Food Programme issued a press statement updating the world about the continuous danger created by the conflict in Syria.

Both organizations have led efforts to provide relief to the Syrian communities under the most duress because of the occupation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). While these operations have been successful, the basic supplies have “yet to reach one in every five besieged Syrians who urgently need help and protection.”

Most of the unreachable people live in the areas of Homs and Aleppo where ISIS occupation makes it challenging to reach the individuals who don’t have access to basic necessities. The United Nations estimates that “500,000 people are caught behind active frontiers” and “two million are in areas controlled by ISIL.”

The statement was released just four days before the start of the conflict’s sixth year. Brutal military tactics and urban fighting has caused the deaths of “over a quarter of a million Syrians” and counting. The large Syrian population has been fragmented by the conflict with “4.6 million people…in places that few can leave and aid cannot reach” and about “4.8 million people” who have emigrated due to the violence.

The message left its depressing tone for a global call to action directed at all parties involved in the war and organizations seeking the opportunity to move in and help those in need. “However, until all parties to this conflict stop attacking civilians, schools, markets and hospitals, we will continue to press them on their obligations and hold them to account,” said the UN humanitarian leaders, condemning the hindrance of aid as “unacceptable.”

Their undertones of hope quickly turned to a stubborn sense of defiance. The authors of the statement were clearly frustrated by the length and severity of the Syrian civil war and feel troubled by their blocked attempts to provide supplies. To sidestep the problem, organizations are “trying new delivery methods” despite the added “danger and uncertainty.”

On the political side, the United States and Russia have begun new campaigns to establish a ceasefire between the warring parties before the sixth year of the conflict commences. Western countries have increasing relied on the power of the Russian government in Moscow to reach a Syrian delegation in Damascus. Despite new diplomatic pressure, the third parties have yet to convince the belligerents of a “direct” meeting reported the Wall Street Journal.

A gridlocked diplomatic landscape, though, does not deter the relief efforts of non-governmental organizations and the World Food Programme. The Wall Street Journal also reports that a senior adviser to the UN’s convoy to Syria has approved “deliveries to 15 new hard-to-reach areas.” Delayed or denied shipments have created a new urgency for these fresh aid packages to arrive in areas with the most destruction.

With all of the negative updates behind, the statement retains an optimistic tone to the end. The United Nations cites that 6 million individuals have been reached in the first three and a half months of 2016. In order to increase that number, crusaders for relief are willing to “negotiate” for access to the most deprived people.

By accessing these hard-to-reach communities, UN leaders hope to inspire the young population of Syria to “believe that their future lies in their homeland.” This resilient generation has to repel violence and poverty in their country if they choose to fight for relief and believe.

Jacob Hess

Sources: World Food Programme, WSJ

The Karam Foundation is an American-based charity, that operates outside of Turkey. Its main purpose is to raise funds to rebuild schools in Syria, as well as to secure opportunities for Syrian children.

The organization’s mission is especially important at a time when the conflict in Syria has led to the recent closure of some schools in the protectorates of Raqqa, Deir-ez-Zour and other rural areas. These combined factors have disrupted the education of more than 670,000 students, according to UNICEF.

In addition, the majority of the country’s 5,000 schools cannot be used because they have been damaged, destroyed, or recently bombed. Some schools have even become bases for the armed forces and rebel groups. In 2015, more than 120 schools were bombed, in some cases, deliberately.

Not surprisingly, many parents have stopped sending their children to school. Syrian teachers have also paid a heavy price, as many have been forced to leave their jobs as a result of the ongoing conflict.

However, Karam Foundation has proposed that even in the face of adversity, it is necessary to invest in the children living in Syria by rebuilding their education and promoting prosperity.

The Foundation is focused on reconstructing the education system to ensure sustainability instead of finding short-term solutions that may not be durable.

The Karam Foundation also explains on its website that it is, “On a mission to build better future for Syria, this initiative is dedicated to providing aid that matters and finding the most effective and impactful ways to help the Syrian people.”

The Foundation has implemented both creative and therapeutic programs, with the help of dozens of experts that bring inspiration to thousands of displaced Syrian children. Through its sustainable development mechanism, the organization also provides innovative technology, effective business models and grants for Syrian children who desire to maintain themselves.

Moreover, year round, Karam Foundation provides basic necessities, such a food, clothing and heating fuel to thousands of Syrian families.

Isabella Rölz

Sources: Karam Foundation, UNICEF, FIP
Photo: Wikipedia

As war and conflict continue in Syria, the number of refugees climbs to troubling amounts. The United Nations reported that as of July 9th, 2015, over the past four years the number of Syrian refugees fleeing from the violence has exceeded 4 million.

With numbers on the rise and a cease of violence nowhere in sight, the United Nations is facing one of the worst crises of the past few decades.

The extreme number of people fleeing has placed a serious stress on neighboring countries. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are battling to accommodate refugees. The rate of unemployment is rising exceedingly fast, infrastructures and housing availability is becoming scare, and resources are being spread thin.

Currently, Turkey is experiencing the largest amount of Syrian refugees with over 1.8 million seeking safety there. Lebanon is hosting 1.17 million refugees, while Jordan has approximately 629,000. Some are traveling further distances to places such as Iraq and Egypt in an attempt to put some space between themselves and the violence.

The ever increasing numbers of Syrian refugees does not include the 270,000 asylum applications received by Europe.

With violent conflict and rapid refugee relocation, the United Nations has a predicament to handle that they have not seen since 1992 when the Afghanistan refugee population reached 4.6 million.

Handling the crisis within Syria is stressful enough, but the dispersion of problems among multiple countries is reason for excessive worry from the nation’s leaders and the United Nations.

For Syria alone, the conflict “has plunged 80 percent of its citizens into poverty, reduced life expectancy by 20 years, and lead to massive economic losses estimated at over $200 billion,” and is continuing to negatively drag the country down. With around three million Syrians losing their jobs, the unemployment rate has jumped from 14.9% in 2011 to a staggering 57.7% by the end of 2014.

These distressing facts amount to around 4 in 5 Syrians currently living in poverty, both in and out of the country.

The present is grim. The near future appears grim, as well. But, what will be happening several years from now? Sadly, aspects of life for Syrians may not be much improved, as there are more Syrians in poverty than out of it.

Education has collapsed in response to the war. The Guardian reported that “50.8 percent of school-age children no longer attend school” and has, so far, cost children three years of schooling.

Over 200,000 Syrians have been killed due to the civil war, 7.6 million are displaced inside Syria and over 4 million have fled the country. With poverty out of control, education in crumbles and a scattered, broken population the distant future for Syria does not appear much more hopeful unless proper aid is given.

The end of the war and its results are unattainable right now. Once the war and violence ceases, regardless of the outcome, a new set of problems will arise in the form of poor health and lack of healthcare, illiteracy, an under-educated generation, and a nation working to make itself functional.

Katherine Wyant

Sources: Channel 3000, BBC NEWS, The Guardian, UN News Centre

Syria has seen a rise in violence and conflict; moreover, not just Syrians are the victims. Syria is home to 560,000 Palestinian refugees in 12 camps relying on aid. They have been living there up to four years or longer. After escaping violence in Palestine, these refugees find themselves in danger once again. Even the camps they thought would provide security are attacked. Aid can’t enter. Conditions can worsen. This can create preventable health problems: unsanitary conditions, starvation and disease. Many surrounding countries like Jordan and Lebanon have closed their borders to Palestinian refugees, making it difficult for them to flee the violence and worsening conditions.

Although it becomes difficult for aid workers assisting the refugees to provide the adequate care needed, aid continues to reach the refugees. The United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNWRA in the Near East reaches more than three million people in 128 Primary Health Centers in the Middle East. In Syria alone there are 23 centers; however, only 19 are currently open because of violence. Yet, these centers reach about 80 percent of the Palestine population in Syria. Goals for 2015 indicate that 100 percent of the refugee population will be reached.

The services that UNRWA provides work to ensure a healthy lifestyle and environment. The Family Health Teams were developed to provide comprehensive care to visitors. There is preventive and curative care, outpatient, pharmacies and maternal offices. No longer does UNRWA just focus on the particular issue that brings someone to the clinics, but on the entirety of the health of the patient—this approach to aid is known as the Life Cycle Approach. The goal is to provide long-term medical aid to each person that enters. Doctors are able to treat all medical conditions from pregnancy complications to cancer, from the time a person is born to the time they die. By taking care of person through all stages of life, the hope is that this will lead to a healthier Palestinian community.

The Family Health Teams are made up of several teams that include a doctor, several nurses and a clerk. Each team has the same number of families to treat. The teams form personal relations with the patients, learning about their medical history. Check-ups after the initial visit allow preventable complications to be fixed before they become fatal; this enables the doctors to provide more adequate aid and proper monitoring to everyone. The new focus has seen a reduction in maternal deaths. About 99 percent of the population is immunized, and outbreaks of preventable diseases are near zero.

While conditions appear to be worsening for Palestinian refugees, new programs developed to provide aid for them are showing positive signs. Refugees have access to efficiently run health care providers that provide aid for any problem at any stage of life. The aid has gone beyond just temporary refugee camp health care to a permanent health care system. The doctors and nurses are able to not only combat health problems that are common in refugee populations like maternal death and the spread of communicable diseases, but also create a healthier Palestinian community by treating diabetes and lowering obesity levels.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: UNRWA 1, UN News, CNN, UNRWA 2, UNRWA 3
Photo: UNHCR

In 2013, 69,926 people were admitted into the United States as refugees, according to the 2014 Fiscal Year Refugee Admissions Statistics published by the U.S. State Department.

That number is increasing and will continue to grow in the coming year. On February 2015, the Office of Refugee Resettlement reported that 69,986 refugees came to the U.S. in 2014. The U.S., though, often does not have enough jobs for refugees that come into the country.

The reason for the rise in refugee amount is largely due to the crisis in Syria, which has displaced thousands. So far, about 647,000 people have been forced to flee the region.

The Syrian conflict has been called the largest migration by a single group of people since 1999 when war in Kosovo resulted in the displacement of more than 867,000 people.

The United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees releases an annual report on the total amount of people driven from their homeland. In June 2013, it was at 45.2 million people. This was the highest ever in recorded history.

The five countries most impacted by wars are Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan. In fact, these countries were the source of 55% of all refugees in 2013.

In the 2012 report, nearly half of the population of refugees were female, and about 46% were children aged 18 or younger.

In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Srirupa Dasgupta owns a socially minded restaurant. Beginning at first as a catering company in 2010, the restaurant opened in April 2014. Dasgupta wanted to create a place where refugees and other marginalized people could find jobs.

“I realized that Lancaster has a large refugee population,” says Dasgupta, “These women had the skills to get a job and had jobs in their country but they couldn’t get past the language barrier in this country.”

She saw that, hired as cooks, women did not have to read the recipes because they had curated them on their own. Currently, she has three regular employees that are each paid $14.50 per hour, which is twice the amount of minimum wage in Pennsylvania.

Dasgupta came to the U.S. from India to attend college in Massachusetts. Her grandparents fled Bangladesh in 1947 and their struggle, along with many others she has come across, inspired her to start her business.

“Upohar’s lead chef is Rachel Bunkete who grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She left her home in order to escape political, ethnic and religious conflicts in 2008, but was forced to do so without her husband and three children. Ever since she was allowed to come to the U.S., she has been working toward being reunited with her family.

Another chef, Tulsha Chauwan, fled Bhutan with her family and lived in refugee camps in Nepal for year before they were allowed to settle in the U.S.

Upohar, the name of the restaurant, is the Bengali word for ‘gift’.

So far, Dasgupta has yet to yield any profit from her restaurant, but she is thrilled just knowing that she has made a difference in the lives of those involved.

– Lillian Sickler

Sources: NPR, Upohar, Lancaster Online, International Rescue Committee, U.S. Department of State, The Guardian, Office of Refugee Settlement
Photo: Flickr