Danette Gorman founded Help Syria’s Kids in 2017 to help refugee children living in Lebanon. She was driven to start this mission after viewing the documentary film KETERMAYA, about an informal refugee settlement on a dusty hill-top in the Lebanese mountains, where families from Syria had fled war and chemical attacks, trying to survive. The KETERMAYA film was presented from the perspective of the Syrian children including a scene where older girls created their own school curriculum to teach the younger children, from the hillside of the settlement. Just a month after viewing this film, Danette was on her first flight from New York to Beirut, Lebanon. Immediately upon arriving at the Ketermaya refugee camp she witnessed the children living at the settlement in such desperate conditions, yet with an amazing resilience, energy and light, like she had never experienced. The perseverance witnessed was miraculous and moved Danette to do everything she could, to support these children with a path out of their lives as refugees.
A meeting with the British Council in Beirut, provided advice that the most impactful thing that could be done to help the children transform their lives, was to help them learn English. To facilitate this, Danette developed the idea of working with students in Hudson, New York to write letters to the children in Ketermaya and use those letters as a tool to learn English as well as to inspire a sense of hope through the development of friendship.
Students in New York and around the world are hearing about the plight of the Syrian refugee children. Many are seeking to connect with these refugee children to learn more about their lives, their dreams, and cultures as well as to share support for their rights to education.
When, Danette returned to New York, she worked to form the first pen-pal program with the Hudson Intermediate School district with an objective to nurture the reading and writing skills of the Syrian children, while teaching cultural understanding for refugees.
Danette has continued to follow through for the Ketermaya camp with many trips to Lebanon delivering food, hygiene and school supplies. She has also established strong partnerships for their education with the American University of Beirut and Lebanese American University who have contributed many eager volunteers and programs for the children. She has also expanded her Pen Pal program to dozens of schools around the world, with children exchanging thousands of letters with Syrian refugee children throughout Lebanon, to serve as tools to learn English and inspire hope.
Watch the Ketermaya film trailer, by Lucas Jedrzejak: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/ketermaya