North East Connected

School’s fundraising for conflict children welcomed by Syrian mother

Syria fundsA Syrian mum who fears she and her family will never be able to return to their war-torn homeland, will pay an emotional thank you to Newcastle schoolchildren fundraising to help youngsters caught up in Syria’s civil war.

Ourooba Shetewi’s son Eyad, six, is excelling at Thomas Walling Primary Academy in Blakelaw, where his classmates are raising money to help Save the Children fund schooling for displaced Syrian children in refugee camps.

Eyad was left traumatised by the civil war before he was able to leave Syria with his father Oussama as planned and join Ourooba who is studying at Newcastle University. He has since formed a network of friends at the school where he is a happy and popular boy.

Teachers and youngsters at Thomas Walling were moved by his story and that of youngsters who are missing out on education as their families flee the country where conflict is raging.

Mum Ourooba was deeply touched by the Thomas Walling youngsters’ fundraising week of events, which included raising £150 from loose change collected from family and friends. The cash was displayed in the school hall in a map on the floor depicting the outline of Syria, part of a grand total of more than £1,300 raised during the school’s Syria Week.

Ourooba, 31, will speak to the school in an assembly about the beauty of her homeland and thank children and their families for their generosity in supporting Syrian children suffering hardship.

She is studying for a PhD in sociolinguistics at Newcastle University. She came to the UK to pursue her postgraduate studies.

Her 44-year-old science teacher husband Oussama and Eyad joined her later after eventually being given dependant visas, but not before the civil war had left Eyad traumatised.

“Eyad really enjoys school, initially he was shy but he loves Thomas Walling school,” said Ourooba, who has lost relatives in the Syrian conflict.

“I love what the school are doing to help Syrian children, we feel humbled and sad at the same time.

“I tear up every time I talk about this – even though I was not happy with things the way they were before the war, it is difficult to be at the receiving end of charity now.

“That’s why I want to come to the school to do a presentation about Syria, I don’t want the country to be always viewed like this, to be summed up in the conflict. I want people to know what we were like and the country we had before the war.”

Ourooba now has another addition to her family – nine months old daughter Sarah. The family are living in Fenham and fear their dream of returning to their home on the outskirts of Damascus will never be realised.

“The victims are the civilians, homes have been destroyed and children have been orphaned – it is horrible,” said Ourooba.

“We will never know if we are able to go back or not. A lot of people just left everything.

“Seeing the pictures, you start to remember the mundane things, you start to remember the food, the seasons.

“Back home we used raw milk to make cheese, something as mundane as that reminds me of home, and things like the weather and the wildlife.

“I lived on a farm and we had our own vineyard, we kept chickens and rabbits and grew our own fruit and produced our own olive oil.

“Syria is an agricultural country, its people are great, the climate is good for growing produce – we had so much potential to be a very prosperous country and that’s the country I want people to know about.”

Thomas Walling Primary Academy Headteacher Julie Scott said: “When Eyad joined us he was a silent, frightened little boy – he used to talk about bombing and was asking the other children ‘do you have bombs here?’

“We were all moved by the news stories of the plight of Syrian schoolchildren in refugee camps who are missing out on their education, which is so important if we are to help prevent conflicts in future.

“Our pupils all want to help charities such as Save the Children who are raising money to build schools in these camps to give the children the education they deserve.”

Thomas Walling Primary Academy is a member of the Laidlaw Schools Trust. It teaches more than 450 children and has been part of the local community for over 60 years.

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