Firefly International

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Activities Based Learning

I chose this photograph because it shows one of our children totally absorbed in his learning. He cannot read or write but now is able to recognise numbers in English and Arabic.

He is using the simple slide rule that has been developed and made by the teachers in our center. He is learning simple addition and subtraction in an interactive way that engages him in learning maths.

This child is a refugee from Syria, he has had very little schooling due to his repeated displacement inside Syria. He is now in a safe space mixing with children his own age and re-engaging in learning.

Where your donations go

It is a very poignant photograph for me as the child in red came to our center having fled Aleppo at the height of the atrocities. She is eleven years old and lost her leg due to a war injury. She is an orphan she is being brought up by her twenty-two-year-old cousin. She lives in the poorest conditions. Our center was also able to ensure that this family group is able to receive monthly food packages from the red crescent and winter fuel support. Her brothers are now attending our center and have stopped working as a result of this support.

Her psychosocial needs have been supported by our staff, she is now able to participate in small group activities, with girls her own age. She is gaining confidence and able to concentrate and learn again following her trauma.

This photograph shows resources being put to good use. Donations to Firefly materialise into appropriate resources for our center.


I chose this picture as it shows two of our teachers with the resources they developed and made that support the applied science curriculum they have developed.

Our science teachers were professional engineers before they had to leave Syria. They have been retrained as teachers in our center, and have developed this highly innovative activities programme that is accessible for children that have had few educational opportunities.

Children are learning complex science in a hands-on way that will increase their future employability opportunities

Introducing Firefly International

Firefly International (registered charity number SC 028744) is a Scottish NGO that was established in 2003. It emerged from Firefly Youth Project, a youth-focused NGO that was founded by Ellie Maxwell (in 1998), which previously operated in Brčko District, in the north-east of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We have worked with Svitac in Bosnia-Herzegovina since 2003 and the Antakya Project in southern Turkey since 2016.

In recognising the limitations of external interventions, which have sometimes been counterproductive, Firefly International commits to work through local partners and in accordance with the principle of empowerment. In contrast to more ‘top-heavy’ and well-resourced aid and NGO-competitors, it is well-placed to provide ad hoc support that is grounded within local needs and which responds directly to local needs and requirements.

Our volunteer team and two part-time staff are currently supported by trustees and patrons, who help to oversee the team’s work and also contribute their individual and collective experience and knowledge to Firefly International’s work. We work through both partners by providing administrative, fundraising, public relations and volunteer-based support, helping to provide opportunities for educational and personal development that would not otherwise exist.

In continuing to work with both local partners, we commit to:

RReach out to young people who have been denied essential rights by conflict.

E Engage with educational needs while enhancing learning and future prospects.

AAdvance artistic engagement, creativity and self-esteem.

C Contribute core funding and project management support to local partners.

HHelp to heal divisions and psychological traumas in communities impacted by conflict.

Source: Firefly International Annual Report 2017-18

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Loving learning again

Entirely run by Syrian refugees, our centre provides educational activities where Syrian children can develop intellectually, emotionally and physically in a safe learning space. Our Syrian staff have developed an innovative maths and applied science programme engaging children in their learning through a series of practical workshops.

Introducing Our Local Partners

The Antakya Project

Working Context

The Antakya project is an education centre that is located in the city of Antakya in south-west Turkey, which is located around 53km north-west of Idlib city and around 87km west of Aleppo.

Sudden and unpredictable influxes of refugees have imposed considerable strains upon both Antakya, a city of around 220,000, and Hatay Province. Over the course of the refugee crisis, the Turkish government, the largest global recipient of Syrian refugees, has gradually moved towards a policy of integration. It is now government policy, for instance, to teach Syrian refugee children within Turkish schools. This policy has not been without considerable problems, not least continued tensions surrounding the use of the Arabic language within the classroom.

An already difficult situation has been further complicated by the hostility of the Turkish government towards Syrian NGOs, which have resulted in several of the larger and more visible NGOs being closed down. Our work within Antakya Project is made easier by the fact that the situation has recently stabilised. However, the Syrian regime’s forthcoming military offensive within Idlib Province could easily contribute to the resumption of large-scale refugee influxes into Hatay Province.


The Antakya project was established in 2016, and was originally conceived as an education project that would provide educational and psycho-social support to Syrian children. It developed in response to humanitarian aid projects that viewed Syrian refugees as passive recipients.

The project was conceived in the context of the Syrian refugee crisis and was developed in response to an ongoing need for education. In response, Firefly committed to fund and support a Syrian-led education centre that would be established in the Turkish city of Antakya.

Key Objective

To provide a safe and productive learning environment and educational activities that will enable Syrian children to develop new skills and abilities.

Organisational Structure

A Board that includes both Turkish and Syrians nationals and which is responsible for upholding administrative requirements;

  • a Director who is responsible for the centre’s day-to-day running, meeting of paperwork/registration requirements, staff recruitment and the submission of accounts and other key information to Maria Chambers.
  • A Head of Curriculum who is responsible for the development of teaching content and structures;
  • Three science teachers who prepare and teach applied science and contribute to the development of the online teaching program;
  • Two part-time language teachers who prepare and teach classes.
  • One teacher also teaches creative mathematics
  • Two part-time workshop facilitators who prepare biology and computer programming workshops
  • The centre also employs a cleaner.

Core Programs/Activities

  • Classes and workshops focused upon applied science, creative maths and language classes (300 annual participants);
  • Pilot Project focused upon online teacher training in Syria (20 participants, 8 successfully trained and are currently teaching up to 200 children in rural Iblib and the outskirts of Aleppo; 12 are currently being trained);
  • Summers Girls’ Program focused upon the teaching of the pasteurisation process to girls, during which they made cheese and yoghurt (21 participants).

Local/International Partners

Difficulties in working with official institutions, most notably schools. The Antakya works with a number of local NGOs, and we provide educational classes and workshops at centres within the city during the weekend (during the week, classes and workshops are held at our centre in Antakya).
Categories: Projects