Karyn Thomas

Founder and co-director of Small Projects Istanbul, an NGO based in Turkey that provides access to supplementary education services and community support to those displaced by the Syrian conflict.

In the words of the HLS community member who nominated her, Whilst living and working in Istanbul as a lawyer from 2012 to 2015, I was devastated to witness the upheavals that the conflict in Syrian has created for Syrian families and children.  I have a deep commitment to Pro-Bono work and I wanted to contribute to an organization that is dedicated to the causes and resettlement of Syrian refugees. Then I met Karyn Thomas, who was the founder of Small Projects Istanbul for Syria. (then a small organization.) Karyn’s experiences in the Yarmouk Camp, an area of Damascus populated by Palestinian refugees, in 2011 and 2012. Seeing how children and young people in Syria were missing out on schooling due to the war led Karyn to decide in 2013 to assist in the processing and sponsorship of one 17-year-old Palestinian girl to finish her secondary education outside of the country. This experience solidified Karyn’s belief that grassroots projects can indeed be effective, and that individuals can and do make a difference. Following she engaged in various “small projects” to assist families from Syria living in Istanbul. As Karyn shared her story with me, she expressed that she wants the organization to grow and operate as an NGO. I was deeply touched by Karyn’s commitment and dedication and obtained an NGO status for the organization under Turkish law. Now, under Karyn’s leadership, Small Projects Istanbul is changing lives of many Syrian families in Turkey by providing access to formal and supplemental education to succeed in Turkey and beyond. I recommend her warmly as a woman inspired me to continuing pro-bono humanitarian work as an international arbitration attorney.”