Individuals can make a difference with donations if governments don’t step up, said Chopra, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and Bollywood and Hollywood star.
“We need to take it into our own hands because this is our world and we only have one of it,” Chopra told The Associated Press at the end of her first day in Jordan.
“I think the world needs to understand that this is not just a Syrian refugee crisis, it’s a humanitarian crisis,” she said in an interview Sunday.
Without sufficient support, “this can be an entire generation of kids that could turn to extremism because they have not gotten an education,” she said.
Some 5 million Syrians have fled civil war in their homeland since 2011, many settling in nearby Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The influx has overburdened host countries, including their schools. More than half a million Syrian refugee children of school age — or one-third of the total — are not enrolled in school or informal education in the host countries. Meanwhile, UN and aid agencies supporting the refugees routinely face large funding gaps.
On Sunday, Chopra, a light grey scarf slung over her hair, visited a UNICEF-backed children’s centre in Jordan’s capital of Amman. The UN child welfare agency supports more than 200 such “Makani” centres — Arabic for “my space” — in Jordan, along with other refugee education programs.
In the centre, preteen girls and boys sat around low table or on the ground, coloring or gluing glitter on paper. Only a few children knew who she was, but easily engaged with her.
A young boy told her he wanted to become an actor. She told him that one of the prerequisites is not to be shy and then challenged him to a staring contest. They locked eyes until she stopped, laughing.
Chopra later said she was moved by the hopefulness of the children she met.