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IOCC Project Extends Assistance To Iraqi Refugees In Syria

A refugee child in Syria learns to write through a program run by IOCC and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.A refugee child in Syria learns to write through a program run by IOCC and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.October 30, 2010

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) signed an agreement with International Orthodox Chrisitan Charities (IOCC) to extend assistance to Iraqi refugees living in Syria. The $4.5 million award from PRM, implemented with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, will provide food assistance, educational support and vocational training for Iraqi refugees and Syrians in communities hosting large numbers of refugees.

IOCC Regional Director, George Antoun, anticipates that the project will provide direct assistance to more than 56,000 people over the next two years.

"The future for many Iraqi refugees remains uncertain," explained Antoun. "Although conditions in Iraq have improved, the situation remains fluid and many refugees are reluctant to return in the absence of stability and security as well as access to clean water, sanitation, electricity and other basic necessities. Others fear for their lives and the lives of their children who cannot safely walk to school."

The program will assist vulnerable Iraqi refugees and underserved Syrians residing in and around Damascus, as well as in Aleppo and Jazirat.

Many Syrians have suffered under the economic burden of inflation which followed the massive influx of Iraqi refugees beginning in 2003. IOCC's program seeks to alleviate part of the hardship by providing vulnerable families with assistance similar to that being offered to the refugees.

Through the program, Iraqi and Syrian families will receive essential items, such as hygiene parcels and school kits. The kits are provided by churches from across the United States, including many Orthodox Christian parishes, as well as through donations by IOCC partners Church World Service and Lutheran World Relief.

Educational efforts will focus on ensuring that school-aged children are enrolled in school, providing intensive summer school readiness programs for children who have fallen behind as a result of their circumstances, as well as language and literacy courses for girls and women.

Vocational training will allow Iraqi refugees to acquire portable, professional skills and improve their standards of living. Students will be offered courses in English, computer certification, tailoring, hairstyling, and other professions that are in high demand. The program will also provide 50 small grants to some of the most promising graduates. The grants help start small businesses that create jobs for both Syrians and Iraqi refugees.

IOCC, founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), has implemented over $330 million in relief and development programs in 33 countries around the world.

Media: Contact Mark Hodde at 410-243-9820 or email