Strengthening Partnerships and Building Networks

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Dec 18, 2019
by Claire Kidwell
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Strengthening Partnerships and Building Networks

QFI senior programs advisor Carine Allaf on work, challenges, and new opportunities Carine Allaf (Photo: Katrin Kerschbaumer)

“You can’t really work in schools wherever and not run into the issues of refugees and migrants that are in your school building,” says Carine Allaf, senior programs advisor at Qatar Foundation International (QFI).

Speaking at the latest program in Salzburg Global Seminar’s Education for Tomorrow’s World multi-year series, Allaf is taking part in conversations on education and workforce opportunities for refugees and migrants.

QFI is a grant-making organization that aims to inspire meaningful connections with the Arab world through three different program areas: Arabic Language Education, Arab Societies and Culture, and Connected Communities.

Having initially worked on Arabic Language Education, Allaf’s attention is now focused on teaching others what life is like as a refugee through virtual classroom sessions.

“It’s a very kind of easy way for students sitting in a classroom somewhere to meet someone from [a] conflict-ridden region and an opportunity to really normalize and say, ‘Wait, there [are] so many similarities between me and them rather than differences,” says Allaf.

QFI researches ways to support the needs of refugees in the Arab world and beyond. Allaf says one way the organization is doing this is by collecting data on the mental health and psychosocial needs of Arabic speaking adolescents in public schools in Virginia, Texas, and Michigan. Allaf says, “We’re starting to analyze our findings to see kind of whether what the themes are, and we’re going to try to do comparative analysis based on location as well.”

People migrating can have different needs and may have experienced traumatic events in their lives. QFI helps support these people and emphasizes social and emotional learning (SEL) within its work. Allaf says participants at the ongoing program must not lose sight of the value of SEL for anyone in education. As the world changes and grows closer, Allaf suggests its more likely people will interact with someone who has had the experience of being a migrant or refugee.  

“You need a unique perspective. You need empathy,” says Allaf. “You need all of these skills when you’re learning either a foreign language or about a foreign part of the world that you may or may not ever get to visit. And for that reason, we’ve been part of the social [and] emotional learning series [at Salzburg Global].”

It’s the third consecutive year QFI has partnered with Salzburg Global, and Allaf indicates the organization is grateful to be part of a more extensive network.

At this week’s program, Allaf has heard obstacles people are facing around the world in their efforts to assist refugees and migrants. “But what’s hopeful,” says Alllaf, “is that everybody in this room has an example of a way that they’ve still been able to make some sort of impact despite the structural challenges.”

The diversity of perspectives and experiences have helped strengthen the discussions. At the beginning of a program, Allaf admits it may be hard for some participants to see connections between different disciplines, but by the end, the linkages are clear. Allaf says, “It’s really kind of refreshing to understand and look at other disciplines, whether it’s the medical field or the social science field, the linguistic field, and learn from their work and their way, their processes and have that inform the work that we do, not just as a foundation, but also the education in emergencies field. For me personally, it’s also refreshing. It’s kind of like a reenergizing of my soul when I come here.”


The Salzburg Global Seminar Program, Education and Workforce Opportunities for Refugees and Migrants, is part of the Education for Tomorrow’s World multi-year series. The program is held in partnership with ETS, Microsoft, Qatar Foundation International, Porticus, and the LEGO Foundation.