Loay comes from family of doctors in Lebanon. He was a graphic designer and entrepreneur who started a successful design firm in his home country. But when Hezbollah raided his offices and forced him at gunpoint to join the fight in Syria, Loay fled to Turkey, and eventually made it to the shores of Greece. The escape journey cost him over $60,000. He now lives in Spain, but regularly returns to the Greek island of Chios to the camp where he stayed as a refugee to help people still stuck in limbo. He wants to empower refugees to find work as freelancers. He believes there could be an online hub where refugees with special skills can over their services, anything from design to teaching Arabic, coding, and even health consultation.
Wassim & Salwa Omar
Wassim and Salwa are a young couple who were both teachers in Damascus, Syria before war broke out. Wassim taught English at Damascus University while Salwa taught high school math. They now live in Germany with their two children, and are very passionate about women’s health and children’s education. Wassim, who also worked as a translator at a local hospital in Greece, has given interviews to Al Jazeera and BBC as spokesperson for the rights of refugees in Europe. Salwa is envisioning a digital solution for women refugees to carry their health records with them wherever they go and wants to work on solutions that ensure women’s safety in camps.
Ahamad Hu Othman
A Syrian accountant and electrical engineer, Ahmad left Syria with his wife and two children. They got caught at the border several times trying to leave Athens before finally arriving in Germany in February 2018. He is one of the few refugees who made the journey with elderly parents. Ahmad and his father taught the alphabet to refugee children in camps using only a piece of white rock and a wall. At Chios, he created a task force to create a public works initiative to put refugees to work cleaning and planting trees on the shores of Chios. Ahmad wants to work on an interactive app or a web platform that keeps refugees informed about the phases of their journeys and next steps.
Abbas is from Kabul, Afghanistan and is now living in Norway. he traveled to Greece as an unaccompanied minor and learned to speak seven languages without any formal education. His father was murdered while Abbas was making the journey. Abbas wants to figure out a way to bring hot water into camps. After witnessing mothers who had to bathe their children in ice-cold water during winter on the islands, he macgyvered a solution to heat water using electrical wires. He believes there could be a solar-powered solution to heating the readily available water on the islands that house refugees.
Milad worked in journalism and media in Afghanistan until two years ago, when he fled as a political refugee to Greece. Since arriving in Greece, he’s had the opportunity to participate in new and challenging projects in research, audio/visual software development, cultural mediation, communication, and translation. He worked on projects with major organizations such as Internews, National Geographic, Translators without Borders, the Dutch Foreign Ministry, and more. Using his experience in the humanitarian field, he co-founded Koosh, a refugee and migrant NGO based in Greece which trains refugees in research, media and journalism projects. The idea behind Koosh is to highlight positive refugee narratives for the international community while also working with the refugee community to aid integration, social cohesion, and empowerment. Milad’s efforts led to an invite from the UK/Greek Entrepreneurial Social Innovation Competition in 2017, where he represented Koosh as a project manager and won 1st place among several incredible ideas and inspiring entrepreneurs.
Maryam Payenda was born on May 10, 1995 in Kabul, Afghanistan. She describes her early years as living a typical childhood life in a small town. Maryam demonstrated an early affinity for science and she loves traveling to different countries and experiencing new cultures. Although she grew up thinking she would be a doctor, while in Afghanistan she developed a passion for computers and went on to earn a bachelor’s in computer science, specializing in database management. She has worked in many different and with many exciting organizations, including working as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) in the MOI (Ministry of Interior) in Afghanistan and in LOTFA (Low and Order Trust Fund-Afghanistan)-UNDP as a database manager.