Conestoga news

July 11, 2023 11:11 AM

Conestoga graduate project provides platform for missing persons search

A non-profit website developed by 2022 Conestoga Graphic Design graduate Dima Aldera is helping locate missing Syrian people. 

Dima Aldera.jpg
2022 Conestoga Graphic Design graduate Dima Aldera developed a website to help Syrian families search for loved ones.

The website, findsuri, was designed as part of Aldera’s final-year capstone project. A culminating component to demonstrate knowledge and skills learned over the length of the program, projects were required to solve an identified problem with design skills.

“Tens of thousands of people have gone missing in Syria since the outbreak of civil war in 2011,” said Aldera. “My vision when designing findsuri was to help Syrian families search for loved ones.”

According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 Syrians have been forcibly disappeared, abducted, tortured and arbitrarily detained over the last decade by parties to the conflict. No official mechanism currently exists to confirm the fate or whereabouts of the missing, secure their release, or return remains of those who perished to their families.

Through findsuri, users can submit details and photos of missing people to be approved and published on the site to help speed up finding people by expanding the reach of information and assisting families with a reliable source to share sensitive details. The site relies on users helping each other locate missing people by sharing information. After designing the website for her capstone, Aldera worked to publish it and launched earlier this year just as Syria and Turkey were struck with a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

“There were thousands of people missing from the earthquake in both Syria and Turkey, adding to the already significant number of individuals who went missing due to the Syrian war,” Aldera continued. “We aim at locating missing Syrians, irrespective of the circumstances surrounding their disappearance.”

Close to 40 profiles have been submitted and published, with five cases solved so far. Aldera is now focused on creating awareness to attract more users in Syria. She is working with the Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective in the Venture Lab to develop the project further.

Aldera came to Canada with her husband and children in 2018 as a Syrian refugee. She completed Conestoga’s General Arts and Science: English Language Studies program before enrolling in graphic design -- a field she had always been interested in.

“Graphic design programs were not available in Syria. It was my dream to study it, so when I came to Canada, I decided to pursue the program,” said Aldera, who honed her skills as an art teacher in the United Arab Emirates. “Going back to school after 20 years was hard, but my teachers and classmates helped push me. They were very supportive, and I excelled in the program and have the confidence I do because of them.”

Aldera hopes to expand findsuri to include missing migrants, as well as additional sites dedicated to others missing as a result of conflict, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Conestoga's three-year Graphic Design advanced diploma program is recognized as one of the top design programs in the province. It employs a project-based learning approach that addresses design, digital content creation, communication, inter-personal, mechanical, technical and enhanced employability skills.