With boundless energy and a contagious smile, twenty-nine year old Ismail is a prominent Syrian youth leader in Za’atari Refugee Camp. Despite the heartache and frustration of life in the camp, Ismail leads the Syrian Youth Committee, a network that runs community service projects, ranging from remedial education for children to recreational activities for the disabled and elderly to theater performances for all the community. He is an inspiring example of Syria’s potential – a smart and passionate leader committed to the service of others. Ismail’s biggest hope is to continue his education.

Before fleeing Syria in November 2012, Ismail had nearly completed his a degree in French Literature at the University of Damascus. Now, far from home in Za’atari camp, Ismail feels his future on hold as he waits for an opportunity to return to university.

“My community needs educated people, and I want to help. There are so many young people like me, whose education was cut short. We all want to study, we all need to study, in order to rebuild Syria.”

Ismail has advocated for higher education to ensure Syria’s youth are equipped to be leaders in their present community and a future Syria. Yet as the crisis drags into its fifth year, he’s still waiting.