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Meeting Notes for March 2  2021
The Light for March 2, 2021
By Kathy Tate-Bradish
President Chris Joyce called the meeting to order with our recitation of Why We Are Rotarians. Marisa Naujokas gave our Thought for the Day from Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881): “The work an unknown good man or woman has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.”
In reference to This Week in the Rotary World and Rotary International’s recent work with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Chris mentioned that we have several DEI initiatives. There is also additional District funding for vocational scholarships.
Ann Weatherhead reported good news from Joining Forces for Affordable Housing. There is funding for a community organizer to join Sue Loellbach to expand advocacy and outreach to communities of color. Ann took part in the interview process that resulted in the hiring of Jamal Graham, an ETHS and UIC Honors College graduate. He made a docu-series called “Black Evanston: Exploring Social Justice in Evanston’s Education, Leadership, and Art.” Ann will invite him to a club meeting.
Ann also mentioned a training program, Affordable Housing 101, presented by Connections for the Homeless, that can be offered just for our club. Please respond to her email if you are interested in attending.
Ann Searles and Linda Gerber shared the sad news of the death of MaLu Simón’s brother Paul, who died of complications of a kidney transplant. Paul was president-elect of the Point Pleasant Rotary Club in West Virginia.
Susan Prout announced next that the next meeting of the Community Service Committee is next Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. via Zoom. They are making funding decisions with the theme of Urgent Needs.
Marv Edelstein brought a light moment about winter, with a “Top 12 Reasons to Enjoy Winter in Chicago” presentation, replete with photos.
Roasts & Boasts
Steve Steiber boasted Bruce Baumberger for always supporting with energy, timeliness, and a smile.
Ann Searles boasted whoever left a bag of pre-washed medicine bottles on her porch.
Helen Oloroso boasted Joy Joyce for organizing the fun Rotary Trivia Night on Saturday.
Kathy Tate-Bradish boasted Katherine Peterson and Linda for their thoughtful facilitating skills.
Steve Goranson boasted his daughter Alicia ("Lecy") for her nomination by the Critics’ Choice Awards as best supporting actress in a TV comedy series.  The Critics’ Choice Awards will be held virtually on TV channel CW on Sunday March 7 at 6:00 p.m. Central Time.
Dale Bradley boasted his younger son Connor, who has accepted an offer to attend the University of Arizona.
Steve Goranson boasted Bruce and Jean Saunders for running the Zoom technology for an ETHS Wildkit after-party event, which raised $100,000. Bruce boasted Steve and daughter Lecy, who were interviewed.
Paul Harris Award
Chris brought Karena Bierman’s Paul Harris pin to her home, in his COVID-adaptive system since we can’t celebrate her in person. Congratulations and thank you for your contributions, Karena.
Topic: Building 10,000 Leaders for the Future of Syria by 2028
Speaker: Lina Sergie Attar, Founder/CEO, the Karam Foundation
Albert Menard, our International Service Committee “champion” for the Karam Foundation, introduced its founder and CEO Lina Sergie Attar. Lina is a Syrian-American architect and writer from Aleppo. She is the founder and CEO of Karam Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Lake Forest, IL. “Karam” means generosity in Arabic and its mission is to build a better future for Syrian refugee youth through innovative education and community-driven aid.
Named one of 50 Women Groundbreakers Changing the World in 2020 by Worth Magazine, Lina’s articles and essays have been published in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Foreign Policy, Politico, The Atlantic, and BBC. She has appeared on CNN, NBC News, BBC News, Huffington Post, NPR, and other media outlets.
Lina studied architecture at the University of Aleppo and continued her graduate studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lina is a co-founder of the How Many More? project which is dedicated to remembering those who have lost their lives in the Syrian conflict. She serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of The Syria Campaign, and is a non-resident fellow at New America.  The Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club, through the International Service Committee, has supported Karam for the past three years.
Lina began by thanking our club for our consistent support over the past three years. As she put it, “Sustained yearly support is truly the ultimate that an organization can hope for” because it allows continued investment in communities and refugee youth, an ongoing mission.
The U.S.-based staff of eight works on communication and programming, but the majority of the work takes place at Karam Houses in two sites in Turkey - in Reyhanli at the Syrian border and in Istanbul. In 2019 they had to completely stop working inside Syria because of the violence. There’s also a small program in the US, Jumpstart, that helps Syrian refugees. Karam focuses on investing in young leaders, for a lasting impact.
More than 12 million Syrians are no longer able to live in their homes (of a population of 24 million inside the country in 2011 – more than 6 million of those have left Syria, and another 6 million are internally displaced), more than 500,000 have died, more than 1 million Syrian kids are no longer in school, and worldwide one in four refugees are Syrian.
Traditional aid doesn’t work in prolonged crises. A sprinkling of schooling and food, living in camps, etc., is good at the start, but there must be investment in kids and parents. Karam focuses on the principle of extreme generosity. They believe in giving everything to those who have lost everything, and provide innovation, opportunity, and possibilities for Syrian refugee youth to become proactive leaders of today and tomorrow. They want youth to believe that being a refugee is a circumstance, but shouldn’t define you long term.
Karam’s goal is to build 10,000 leaders by 2028, and they are well on their way.
The Karam Houses are community hubs, staffed by 20 in each location, nearly all Syrian refugees. The houses have project rooms, a library, and case management spaces. They host workshops for scholars and other activities. ELRC supports Karam families living in extreme poverty, to help keep the children out of child labor. Karam delivers cash stipends to the families on the condition that they send their kids to school. It has developed into closer bonds of case management, checking in on families and schools, and help families graduate from the program and become self-sustainable.
The bulk of the space is innovative education for 14 – 18-year-olds, both boys and girls. They offer subjects such as coding, engineering, and design-based learning, working in teams in partnership with an innovation school in Boston. It’s being delivered to refugees in Arabic for free.
Karam Scholars supports Syrian students in Turkey and Jordan, and offers workshops for students applying to university. One condition of getting scholarships is signing up to do volunteer hours – either with Karam or with any other organization, especially Turkish, to contribute to the civil society in which they live.
In March 2020, Karam had to shift to completely online with all programs because of COVID. Replicating Karam House virtually was just one more challenge to look for opportunities. All of the kids have stayed in school. The team is providing virtual tutoring, tablets, WIFI connectivity, etc.  This virtual learning space has allowed them to reach kids who don’t live near the Karam houses, and have added 15% more kids that they help. Even when they can go back to in-person connections, they will keep the valuable aspects of online learning and relationships.
Lina shared some inspiring personal success stories, showing how investing in young people can transform their lives and help them become leaders. One young university student who received a laptop from Karam lent it to dozens of high school refugees so they could take their SAT exams using his laptop, which inspired other Karam laptop recipients to do the same.
President Chris ended the formal part of the meeting, and at the start of the Q&A Lina shared a moving video of a mother and son talking about the impact of Karam House, absolutely worth watching. It’s less than five minutes.
Please spend some time on the Karam Foundation website to see more of the important and life-changing work.
Guests and Milestones
Visiting Rotarian
Evelyn Lee, Assistant Governor, Evanston Rotary Club
Other Guests
Evan Gerard, friend of Kristin Brown, recent graduate of Leadership Evanston and journalist at the Evanston Roundtable
Susan Prout, March 5
Club Anniversaries
Joan Borg, 6 years
Dilnesa Eshete, 1 year
Susan Prout, 6 years