Meet Baraah: A Syrian refugee rebuilding her life and future in tech in Turkey

Baraah fled the conflict in Syria, eventually settling in Turkey and finding her future in tech. She speaks of her experiences in this second story in the series about graduates of EMPACT — the World Food Programme innovation project connecting students at risk of hunger to the global digital economy. Read the first story of Layth from Iraq here.

By Gulia Rakhimova

My name is Baraah. I’m 29 years old. And I did not surrender. I hope my story will inspire you to do the same.” Photo: Baraah/WFP

Baraah came to Turkey four years ago. She left her home country, Syria, because of armed conflict. “All I wanted was safety and a normal life for my family.”

Baraah is now building up a new life in Istanbul, 1,400 km away from her birth city of Al-Bukamal in eastern Syria. Memories of conflict and displacement left deep scars, but despite all challenges, she maintained her unstoppable spirit and ambition to pursue a career in tech.

Watch Baraah’s story narrated and filmed by herself.

Back in Al-Bukamal, Baraah grew up with her four brothers and parents, who nurtured her passion for learning. Having excelled at science in school, Baraah developed an interest in IT early on only to witness a lack of support and opportunities for women aspiring to work in this field. “Our society was shattering the ambition of a woman, seeing her place at home, caring for children.”

No university would offer IT courses close to Baraah’s hometown. “I would not be able to go to Damascus or abroad for studies alone as an unmarried woman,” she explains. Baraah did not give up and enrolled in an online degree programme in Information System Engineering. “It was difficult and new but interesting.”

During her third year of studies, Baraah met her husband, who supported her career ambitions. They had three children and settled into their new “normal life,” as Baraah calls it, until conflict erupted across Syria. As the security situation deteriorated, Baraah had to drop her university studies and put her dream of becoming an IT specialist on hold.

Thanks to online learning, Baraah could pursue her studies in IT. Photo: Baraah/WFP.

The family was displaced in their own country for five years, moving from one village to another, seeking shelter from airstrikes and armed clashes. “Every place we went was unsafe,” says Baraah. One night, she recalls they feared death as airstrikes destroyed nearby houses; the family left the country for good, only taking their identity documents.

“We left our homes, our memories, our dreams, and our ambitions.”

Baraah and her family ended up in Turkey, joining 3.6 million other Syrian refugees. The journey that brought them there was harsh and left the family traumatized. “My children needed intense attention after losing their sense of safety and stability for years. We went through a lot of psychological and financial stress during that period.”

Starting all over again is hard, but Baraah showed remarkable resilience. She took Turkish language classes and continued her studies in a local university after six years of break. To increase her chances for employment, Baraah started looking for training opportunities. “My university classes were theory-intensive and I needed practical skills to find a job and support my family.”

Baraah struggled to find affordable training until she was accepted to the World Food Programme’s EMPACT training course implemented in collaboration with Kodluyoruz. She was among 112 Syrian refugees who trained with EMPACT in Istanbul.

“My experience with EMPACT provided me with everything I was looking for. It was a free training specifically welcoming Syrian refugees; I could study from home and would qualify for employment.” Baraah’s hard work paid off, landing her freelance jobs in web development even before she completed her IT training. She started her career developing an online store website.

“I regained my ambitions and dreams that I had thought were long gone.”

Now, Baraah is set to graduate from university with work experience already obtained in web development. Additionally, she is filled with hope and life. “I regained my ambitions and dreams that I had thought were long gone,” Baraah says determinedly.

“Now I work and study from home and take care of my children and my family… I realized that nothing hinders ambition as long as there is a lot of motivation and effort expended.”

About EMPACT

Operational in Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon and Turkey, EMPACT supports displaced and food-insecure youths to unlock their true potential and kickstart careers in the technology sector. Through partnerships with the private sector, EMPACT provides short, focused practical training in digital, soft and language skills and connects the students with online, remote and local IT jobs. Globally, around 10,000 refugees and food-insecure youth gained access to online work opportunities and built viable livelihoods through EMPACT.

Read more about WFP’s EMPACT innovation project.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.

Find out more about us: http://innovation.wfp.org. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and watch our videos on YouTube.

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.