Laura Carmichael was a long way from Downton Abbey during a recent trip to Lebanon. The actress from the British period drama set out in her role as an A World at School Ambassador to tackle a 21st century challenge – helping Syrian refugee children who are unable to get an education because of conflict in their country.
“I met children who have had everything taken from them because of the conflict raging in their country,” she shares with HELLO! in a statement. “They have left their homes and schools and are separated from friends and families.”
The 28-year-old, who has joined the campaign calling on world leaders to back funding that ensures their education, recounted the tragic stories of the many families she had the opportunity to meet: “I spoke to mothers who were scared for their children’s future, desperate for them to have an education to give them freedom to rebuild their lives.”
During her trip to Bekaa Valley, Laura witnessed firsthand the thousands of refugees living in tented settlements. Almost all of the children there are out of school, which leads them to become trapped in child labor, early marriage or radicalization. “I spoke to a mother who told me her two sons had once dreamed of being teachers and doctors were now laboring every day in order to support their family,” she mentioned. “You could hear the sadness in her voice that her children were bearing the brunt of the war. It was clear from everyone I spoke to that going to school would provide some hope and a chance to rebuild their lives.”
Currently, thanks to a new deal between the international community and the Lebanese government, 200,000 spaces will open in public schools at the start of the school year. This will be accomplished by a ‘double shift’ system where Lebanese children will attend in the mornings with Syrian children being taught in the afternoons.
“The classroom felt so positive and the children energized,” Laura said of her visit to one of the schools. “I spoke to Sharbel, who had been out of school for two years and is now in full time schooling. He told me he wanted to be a pilot, and it was wonderful to think his dream could be a reality.”
Although this is a great stride, there are still thousands of children in Lebanon and millions around the world who are denied an education because they live in conflict or emergency affected areas. In 2014, only one per cent of humanitarian funds went to education.
“We must ensure generations of children in Syria and around the world don’t pay the price of needless wars, earthquakes and other emergencies because their education is neglected,” Laura concluded. “We need to join together and make a call to ensure world leaders listen to the needs of the most vulnerable children in the world.”
To join Laura and A World at School’s cause, click here.