Israa Issa | Lebanon  | Master’s in Applied Sciences | Carleton University, Canada

Israa Isaa is a 25-year-old Palestinian refugee from the Mieh Mieh refugee camp near Sidon in south Lebanon. The camp was established 60 years ago and suffered heavy damage during Lebanon’s civil war. It is overcrowded, there are frequent water shortages, and healthcare is poor.

While living in the refugee camp, Israa was able to graduate from one of Lebanon’s toughest schools. In such schools and those that most Palestinians attend, which are run by the United Nation Refugee and Welfare Agency, the high school dropout rate is 60%. Of those who graduate, only a small number have the pre-requisites to go to university, let alone the funding to do so.

While many of us would consider the challenges she has faced overwhelming, for Israa they are motivating. Her stark reality is that she must continue to draw on her determination to overcome the poverty her family has endured for so long.

Israa was able to pass the American University of Beirut’s stringent admissions and English language requirements. She was the only female in her class of 200 mechanical engineering students, of which there are 10 Palestinians and 190 Lebanese students.

Israa has overcome several significant financial and cultural obstacles in her quest to pursue higher education and she has big dreams. She has worked hard to maintain an excellent GPA and is completing a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering at Carleton University in Ottawa, focused on sustainable energy. In 10 years, she sees herself playing a leadership role in helping reduce our future carbon footprint. The foundation was able to provide Israa scholarship support at the American University of Beirut and at Carleton University thanks to the support of generous donors, and also helped secure admission and scholarships from Carleton University. 

Yet, Israa knows that to realize her dreams and to build a better future for herself, her parents, and her three siblings, she will eventually need to become part of the Palestinian diaspora. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees can only work in menial jobs, regardless of their qualifications. They cannot vote or own land and they don’t have any of the other rights we take for granted, so Israa is currently on the lookout for job opportunities in Canada.

Israa intends to use her newfound knowledge to transform families, her community, and perhaps even entire industries and societies.

by Marissa Pura