Shelter Schools: on the frontline

The shelter schools that have emerged from a partnership between Better Shelter and 11Onze Rolls Up Its Sleeves aim to ensure that children affected by the devastating earthquakes in northern Syria do not lose access to education. We spoke to Antony Merjan, Better Shelter’s Partnership Manager, to hear about the work being done on the ground.


Access to education plays a crucial role for children in communities affected by natural disasters or armed conflict. It is precisely for this reason that 11Onze has partnered with Better Shelter, a non-profit humanitarian organisation, to raise 100,000 euros to build 50 shelter schools to ensure that families displaced by the armed conflict and devastating earthquakes in northern Syria have a semblance of normalcy through school education.

In this 11Onze podcast, we talk to Antony Merjan, Better Shelter’s Partnerships Manager for the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, about the challenges facing refugee children, the importance of working with local partners and the timeline from raising a donation, to building a shelter school in Syria.

Much more than just a school

There are currently some 14 million Syrian refugees, 6 million of whom are still in the country, and more than two-thirds of the displaced are women and children. It is therefore of paramount importance to empower these families with the necessary tools so that their children can access the education they need to secure a future.

The role of shelter schools is not just to educate children, but to provide a safe and dignified space amid a humanitarian crisis. As Antony Merjan explains, “Providing education is not just about what they are learning, it is also a space where they can cope with stress and trauma. It’s simply taking them out of the normality, the bad normality that they are forced to live with”.

It is also important to build shelter schools that are sturdy enough and made of quality materials so that they are not just temporary tents. In this sense, Better Shelter’s units are designed to last for years. They are intended for modular use, so that, depending on the needs, they can be used as a field hospital, a community infrastructure, or whatever is needed.


Collaboration with local organisations

The work Better Shelter does is only possible with the help of local partners on the ground. “We couldn’t do any of our work without the fantastic local network of partners we have”, says Merjan. This collaboration also extends to projects with other organisations such as UNICEF or the Watan Foundation to set up camps of school shelters, where Better Shelter helps with site preparation and setting up the units.

Additionally, the organisation constantly monitors the projects, to analyse their impact on the ground and to be able to provide regular updates to its donor partners. Therefore, they can make sure that contributions fulfil their intended role and go directly to the people in need without getting lost along the way.

I want to roll up my sleeves!

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  1. Joan Santacruz CarlúsJoan Santacruz Carlús says:

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