Empathy, not sympathy, the start of something big.

By Charisse Kong

Year 11 students inspired by refugee guest speaker, Jordan Hattar.

“People will not remember what you did for yourselves, but for what you did for others.” This is the life motto of Jordan Hattar, a humanitarian and social advocate for Syrian refugees who recently shared his experiences with year 11 students.

With the year 11’s still recovering from the refugee simulation in Crossroads earlier this semester, their minds were fresh and eager to learn more about the refugee crisis first-hand.

Hattar has dedicated his life to service ever since graduating high school. He has even established his own charity, Help4Refugees. His interest developed through learning about the Rwandan genocide in school and living the mass destruction of Hurricane Katrina. He passionately shares his journeys to South Sudan and Zaatari Refugee Camps as a college student journalist. “When I asked Syrian Refugees what do you want to tell the world,” he shares, “they always want to share their story and let people understand why they left their home.”

Hatter sent an email to Hong Kong schools, introducing his career as a speaker, and Individuals and Societies teacher Paul Grace reached out to him. Through a Skype call in September, they discussed the logistics and common desires to develop ethical consciousness among the youth. “I wanted to provide opportunities to students to connect with external people with direct experience instead of interacting second hand,” he said. The talk at RCHK, held on January 16, was funded by both the Individuals and Societies and CAS departments.

Hatter offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to video call Sari, a Syrian refugee studying in America, and receive answers to the student’s keen questions. Sari was captured and tortured when he was only 15 years old, all because of his passion for photography. He describes his jarring experiences of being kidnapped, being beaten, and being interrogated. Still among all his horror, he advises the students to act upon forgiveness, as he believes the cycle of vengeance is the root to violence. Within his answers to the student questions, he emphasizes the morals of humanization, empathy, and advocacy. “Sympathy is a one-sided acknowledgement to what seems to be distant problems,” Sari said, “but empathy is the inner motivation to cause change.”

In an atmosphere of inspiration, Hatter conveyed how we, as students, can contribute to the wider community. “I believe that I owe my life, my existence, to do something, even if it is little. I will make the world a little bit better because that is what I can aim for.” He revealed his projects of importing housing caravans for the Zaatari Refugee Camp, his internships with Michelle Obama, and the development of his career.

The students responded enthusiastically to his captivating stories and charisma.

“I loved him,” Olivia Kim, a year 11 student stated and member of the leadership team behind the RCHK Amnesty International club. “He had a lot of cool and interesting stories, and also gave us loads of helpful connections for future references.”

“His words really inspired me,” another year 11 student said. “He was very charismatic and engaging.”

Grace also shared his desires to further expand social justice in the MYP Curriculum. “This does not only connect to the thread of refugee work from Crossroads and others, but could instill a better overall ethical understanding through consistent impact.”

Hattar was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm and warm welcomes. “This has been one of my favorite schools to speak in so far.”

With the increasing exposure to global issues, students feel inspired to emulate his acts of service. Student groups such as Refugees and Amnesty International discussed their common motives and what they could do to help within the school community. “You guys are far more ahead than when I was your age,” he chuckled. “But starting small, within your local community and addressing issues is a step to something big.”