Shaza Barakat. Courtesy photo


Frances Trix has been working with refugee populations most of her life, first in her native Detroit, and later in places like Kosovo and Macedonia. Fluent in Turkish and Arabic, Trix has recently become involved with Syrian refugees in Turkey. She’s particularly concerned with the plight of children.

“We don’t want a generation that’s not educated,” says Trix, a former Indiana University professor. “It can lead to radicalization and crime. One of the first things the Syrian refugees did when they came to Turkey was set up schools.”

One of those was Shamuna School. The school was established by Shaza Barakat, a widow who lost her only son after he could not find an Arabic school in Turkey and returned home to Syria, only to be killed in the fighting there. Trix first became familiar with Shamuna School in 2016 and was impressed with what she saw.

At the time, the school had more than 1,100 students in both primary and secondary grades. Teachers were Syrian and classes were taught in Arabic using Syrian textbooks, with all references to Assad blacked out. Students were also taught Turkish. The school served a dual purpose, offering children a formal education while preserving their Syrian identity.

Things change quickly for refugees, however. In April, Trix returned to Istanbul with plans to deliver funds raised by Bloomington’s Trinity Episcopal Church. When she arrived, the school was gone.

“Turkey has insisted they [Syrian schools] be closed and the children go to Turkish schools with curriculum set by the Turkish administration,” Trix says.

Trix and others are now establishing a summer school for Syrian children. The curriculum will be similar to that of Shamuna School, with a focus on Turkish, Arabic, and English languages; math, history, and geography; and classes in religion.

The funds raised by Trinity are being used just as intended. “We still need money for teacher salaries and bus fares,” Trix says. She is hopeful the summer school can make up for any gaps the children are missing in the Turkish schools. “They had a solid curriculum before and we want to make sure they don’t lose anything.”

To make a donation, contact Trix at or 812-216-3321.