MBA Team Syria: Making a Difference to the Community

DSC00990As a part of the Strategic Leadership course on Edinburgh’s MBA programme, a group of five students organised a social event to help draw awareness to the Syrian refugee crisis. In this guest post, Debjani Paul offers an overview of the event, which centred around the the personal life experiences of three Syrians now settled in Edinburgh – Aamer Hanouf, Hussen Al Ajraf, and Amer Masri.

With the rising global concerns including climate change, an increase in global population, poverty, and terrorism, world leaders have much to focus on. It is becoming a new norm for companies to be socially responsible by promoting sustainability and contributing at least in one of the global concerns, also known as Corporate Social Responsibility. This is the ethical way to do business that every future leader should practice.

The University of Edinburgh Business School promotes the socially responsible aspect of leadership as part of Strategic Leadership course module by including a short activity called ‘make a difference to a community’. We worked in a self-elected group for a cause that appeals to us the most. Our multinational team of five members arranged a symposium for raising awareness about Syrian Refugees.

The political turmoil  in Syria has forced citizens to abandon their homes, belongings and to move out of the country and travel other places in Europe to search for a new place to live, resulting in an influx of refugees in European countries.

The suffering of millions of people stirred us to select this as a cause and to do our bit by raising awareness. Through this event, our main purpose was to connect like-minded people from different organisations who can work together in future to serve Syrians in Edinburgh and in refugee camps located in many countries. To integrate people back in the society and to help ease the trauma from their minds, it takes much more than just helping them with monetary grants and a roof over their heads; they need human care, kindness, counselling, and skills to be self-sufficient once again in a new country and community.

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We invited speakers both from organisations, including NGOs, that offer support – Edinburgh Cares and React, Edinburgh Council, University of Edinburgh Refugee Advisory committee – and from those who represent refugees, including Syrian Refugees in Edinburgh. We spread the word through social media, EUSA, the International Student Advisory Service, the Global Justice Academy and The Chaplaincy.

IMG-20160310-WA0015On the day of the event, the audience were moved by the experiences shared by the Syrian Refugees, Aamer Hanouf & Hussen Al Ajraf, who consider themselves lucky to come to Edinburgh.

Aamer was taken into prison for helping his friend who was shot in his arm and later died. Release from jail after one and half months, he recalled:

“when I got out of the prison, it was hard moment for me because the family for (read of) my best friend, they know (read knew) he was with me, but he is (read was) dead and I have (read had) to tell them that he died”.

Hussen, who came to Edinburgh in November 2015 via Lebanon, spoke with the help of an interpreter. He shared the story about his journey after his village was bombarded and they were given a choice to leave the country or to die.

Dr. Amer Masri now lives in Edinburgh. He was also tortured for two months in prison of Syria, shared stories about the painful condition of Syrian citizens.

Akeel Umar from Edinburgh Cares and Gillian McArthur from React shared horror stories from their experiences while helping Syrians in Refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan.

Alistair Dinnie from Edinburgh Council ( and also a UoE Business School Alumnus) offered insight into how the UK government is offering support through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (SVPRS) and Edinburgh Scheme to support relocated Syrians here.

Euan Fergusson from UoE International Student Advisory Service highlighted that our University is working closely with home office to help Syrian students with sponsorships and visa extension after completion of their courses so that they do not have to go back to Syria by risking their lives.

Finally, the event was closed by Dr. Malcolm Kirkup, Professorial Director of MBA Programmes and Educational Innovation at UoE Business School. He commented that “our MBA is a very international program because in a small way we are trying to make a difference beyond business”, before adding that:

“What has been organised this evening is relatively minor to what Syria is facing today. One thing, however, they (MBA Team Syria – Ellen, Mahak, Dwi, Rakshit and Debjani (self)) have done, is to do something”.

We hope our small effort will highlight the struggled that face Syrians who are being relocated to Edinburgh.

We also realised that a Green World does not only mean a pollution-free world, it includes an ethical world as well, where human suffering is acknowledged and measures are taken to alleviate and eliminate that suffering. This can only be possible if every one of us be equally responsible for doing their bit as part of society or organisation or individually to make our planet a green place to live.

Friends, I know it is a difficult dream, but hey, if you dream it, then only you can do it.

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