Tara Hermez ‘09 from Lebannon

In Support of Refugees
Upon graduating from UWC Costa Rica, I moved back home to Lebanon to work as a volunteer in a refugee camp in the south of Lebanon on a project that empowered Palestinian refugees between the ages of 8 to 16 on the importance of non-violent communication, equipping them with skills that they lacked in their classrooms, on how to cope and engage with society as an oppressed community.  Most of the students were high school drop-outs, while some had already been child soldier recruits.

After six months of full dedication to this project, I decided to decline all my offers to universities abroad (as the plan was to move to Toronto and enroll at the University of Toronto), and stay in Lebanon and study at the Lebanese American University, pursuing a degree in Political Science and International Affairs.

Throughout my degree, I chose to actively engage with different refugee communities within the education sector to actively, all voluntarily, to understand how oppressed societies in my country are treated and try to improve their lives in one way or the other.

I worked with different NGOs and think tanks that invested heavily to understand the complexities of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and how to create programs to respond to the youth and include them more in society.

The most impactful experience I had was working with the UWC National Committee for Palestinian Refugees, giving two to five scholarships a year to young Palestinian refugees across Lebanon.  Each student comes from a family, a community, a society that has been oppressed and neglected for over 68 years; giving them a scholarship revives their reason for existence and reminds them that they are not alone and that people do care for them and want to work with them to improve their conditions.

Each student brings life and hopes to the camps that there are opportunities to work hard and set their ambitions up high.

I was one of the founding members of the Palestinian refugee committee in Lebanon and have been a long-lasting member of the Lebanese National Committee. I was wearing several hats depending on what is needed in the committee, from running selections to carrying out promotional activities to admin work applying and sending the students that have been selected.

One interesting story worth mentioning:

One of our students from the Palestinian refugee camps that were selected to study at Mahindra came back after two years, and told me, “Tara you know if there’s one thing that I never experienced and UWC managed to show me, was that I was able to experience what it’s like to be treated as a normal students a normal human being, the permanent label of a ‘refugee’ marked on my forehead since I was born had suddenly disappeared.  I felt that I finally could be treated just like everyone else.  UWC taught me the essence of what humanity felt like.”

In 2015, Tara received a Chevening Scholarship to pursue her master’s degree at UCL (University College London) in Public Administration and management.  She wrote her dissertation on Integration policies within the educational sector for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK that included policy recommendations addressed to the UK government.

Today, Tara is the C.E.O. of 3QA, a Lebanon-based startup covering the Levant Region, intending to support organizations, foundations, and other entities in the third sector to enhance the quality of their work.