Rizwan Bajwa: Keeping kids fed and in school in war-torn Syria
One of the Hertie School’s first graduates is on the humanitarian front lines in the Middle East.
“I walked 20 kilometres yesterday and it was wonderful…even in the freezing cold,” says Rizwan Bajwa, extracting a pair of trainers from his backpack and removing his black oxfords. On a late November day, Rizwan was in Berlin to speak with students at the Hertie School on a brief sojourn from the milder climes of Damascus, where, he says, it’s unwise to stray far from the hotel where he lives and works.
Along with a handful of colleagues from the United Nations, the Pakistani native has spent the last three years organising school feeding and education programmes for the World Food Programme (WFP) in war-torn Syria. It’s not that he doesn’t get out: part of his job is to visit towns across Syria that rely on the programmes he designs.
In Aleppo, where transporting supplies became nearly impossible in late 2016, he worked with colleagues based there to organise a kitchen that relied on whatever local economy existed. The kitchen employed women, who had become the breadwinners and heads of households, to make food for schoolchildren. In Homs, he supported a voucher incentive project that paid families in groceries so their kids could make up school they had missed.
Originally published in the Hertie School Research Blog
Photo Credit: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh