Turkey: Support for Syrian refugees to make the children’s’ future brighter

Thousands of people fled from Syria as refugees, due to the unending conflict happening there. Now the number of Syrians who live in Turkey has reached 3,540,000 (the number of registered refugees according to the Immigration Bureau, at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkey, as of March 1st, 2018). However, not everyone is able to live in a refugee camp and most of them have taken shelter in a town or village in Turkey. Since opening a community center in Şanlıurfa Province, Turkey, in 2014, AAR Japan has been supporting Syrian refugees who live in the area. We provide rehabilitation, assistive equipment, such as wheel chairs, and legal consultation. In addition to these services, we help them to make a living, find a job and offer educational support. Saori GOMI  from our Turkey Office reports on the activities for children at the center.

Supplementary courses and assistance for homework

Children studying at the center (September, 2017)

In the autumn of 2017, the Turkish government announced a new policy when they decided to transfer Syrian children to Turkish public schools, gradually closing the existing temporary educational facilities. The same happened in Şanlıurfa Province, where AAR Japan also operates. Since last September, many children have started going to Turkish public schools. However, the classes are given in Turkish; therefore, they are unable to understand the courses provided there. For these children, the community center offers the following lessons: for preschoolers there is basic child education. For primary school students, we offer Turkish and Arabic courses, using storytelling. There are also mathematics and science classes. Finally, for primary to high school students, there are supplementary lessons to explain the parts that they found difficult to follow at school. Furthermore, the center assists them in their homework. This is because their parents do not speak Turkish either, which makes it difficult for them to help with their children’s homework. As they get older, the children learn more complicated material, like mathematics, physics and chemistry, which are quite a challenge to understand in their second language. The center added additional supplementary classes to review these subjects. About 180 children take these courses every month.

Children who are studying hard. For those who can’t go to school, this is their only place of education. (November, 2017)

It’s not easy to keep up when the school classes are in Turkish. (October, 2017)

A library where children can study quietly and spend some time in peace

In October 2017, we opened a library in the community center. It is possible to find books here in both Turkish and Arabic. A number of Syrian refugees live with other families in a single house, which means that the children do not have any space to study without distractions. For these children, we provided a place where they can feel free to stop by anytime, take some time to read and do their homework. We also installed a computer there, one which we were not using at AAR Japan’s office, so that they can use it to do some research for their classes.

We hope that they make a lot of happy memories

Children don’t usually have an opportunity to go on a trip. They are overjoyed by this opportunity. (May, 2017)

The center regularly holds events such as concerts and sport contests. In September 2017, we were able to take a total of 50 children to the zoo. They had been looking forward to it for weeks and on the day of the trip, everyone dressed up in their best clothes. They were adorable.
The children were excited for the entire day, after seeing all of the animals they had learned about in their science class at the center. None of them had ever been to a zoo before, so it must have been especially enjoyable. In the past, they have all had sorrowful experiences. That is why we hope that, from now on, they will have happy memories that overcome these previous bad memories.

They also enjoyed playing in the Euphrates River. (September, 2017)

Precious time spent together, when they can have a good laugh. (September, 2017)

Smiles we can’t forget

Even though the children show their smiles at the community center, they are living in difficult situations.
In August 2017, two brothers, aged eight and ten years old, came to the center for a craft class. After talking to them, we found out that they were not going to school. Furthermore, they had bare feet and their clothes looked unclean. We suspected that it could be a sign of neglect and visited their home. During the visit, we found out that four families, including theirs, lived in a single house. The brothers’ mother had died in the conflict in Syria and their father wasn’t working, due to alcoholism. They didn’t even seem to be given enough to eat. Six other children who live in the same house were not going to school either. AAR Japan started supporting the families with a local NGO and began legal proceedings, to make sure all the children go to school. Until this happens, the center staff are teaching them Arabic and mathematics. When they started studying at the center and learnt the alphabet, the children were able to write their names for the first time and showed it to me with big smiles on their faces. I will never forget that day.
When I put myself on the ground in situations such as this, there are moments when I want to take my eyes away from the harsh situation faced by each child at the center. I encountered a child who lost their mother in the conflict, one whose father was missing, and a child who still can’t get a good night’s sleep because of the trauma from the air raids. On the other hand, there are some small children who have little memory of Syria and they look after their sick mother or live in poverty. However, I feel that because we go out into the field and interact with these children, it makes us able to notice their subtle changes and give them a suitable response and attentive support. I’d like to continue to support change for the future of the children, to make it a little brighter by being there with them, and always be conscious of what we notice and what we can do to improve things. In Turkey, the number of people who need support, just like these children, has been increasing. To support their prolonged life as refugees, I sincerely appreciate your continued support for AAR Japan’s activities.
[Reporter] (Profile as of the date of the article)

Saori GOMI, Turkey Office
She has been working at our Turkey Office since February, 2017 and engaged in Syrian refugee support. She grew up in the United States and moved to Japan after graduating from university. She joined AAR Japan after working at a major advertising agency for three and a half years. Her hope is to make the future of Syrian children a little brighter.

Japanese-English translation by Ms. Yukari ONDA
English editing by Mr. Richard Whale

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan's Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.  


The Great East Japan Earthquake: Fire extinguishers delivered to public housing for the disaster-affected

“Really thankful for delivering them to all households.”

Nearly seven years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake.  In Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, public housing for disaster-affected people began receiving residents in 2012, and approximately 700 residents currently live there.  AAR Japan, in consultation with Soma City, provided 410 fire extinguishers to five public housing compounds in the City.  Soma City is a windy place, and the public housing facilities are sometimes built in the form of row houses, where neighbors live side-by-side with narrow spaces between them.  Therefore it was feared that once a fire breaks out in one house, it may quickly spread in the neighborhood.  It was thus deemed necessary that not only some but all of the households are supplied with fire extinguishers.   
                             Residents of public housing for the disaster-affected. (January 10, 2018)

On January 10, 2018, a reporter visited a public housing compound for the disaster-affected in Soma City and heard from the residents in its meeting room.
According to the residents at the hearing, Soma City prior to the earthquake was a city highly conscious of disaster prevention, where the people practiced evacuation drills, cooperatively took precautions to prevent fire, and even organized a participatory group called the “women’s fire brigade,” which was engaged in supplying food and providing other services during evacuation drills.  After the earthquake, however, all these activities discontinued, and the people said they had been worried about what would happen in case of fire.  Many of the residents gathered said, “We are really thankful to AAR Japan for providing fire extinguishers to all the residential families,” “Fire extinguishers are not available in supermarkets nearby, and we did not know where to get one,” and “We ourselves are mindful of fire prevention , and yet the fire extinguishers give us an additional sense of security.”  AAR Japan is determined to continue its support activities in Northeast Japan.
    Residents of public housing for the disaster-affected received the fire extinguishers and said, 
                             “It will give us a further sense of security.” (January 10, 2018)


Yuki SAKURAI, AAR Japan Tokyo Headquarters
Upon graduating from university, Sakurai worked in a civil foundation before studying Peace Studies at a graduate school in U.K.  After working for an NPO in Pakistan, he joined AAR Japan in August 2012.  Having worked for the Tajikistan program and others at the Tokyo Headquarters, he was stationed in Zambia and then in Tajikistan.  Sakurai now is at AAR Japan Tokyo Headquarters, engaged in the Fukushima program and the stop-killer robot-campaign.  A father of three children, he is from Chiba Prefecture.

Japanese-English translation by Mr. Yukio KIUCHI
English editing by Ms. Laura Peters

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan's Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field. 


The Great East Earthquake: Victims living in different situations mutually support each other

Disaster victims from Fukushima prefecture had a pleasant time on the Sunday afternoon of September 10th, in Musashino, Tokyo. They had evacuated from Fukushima and are taking shelter in and around the city. It was “Musashino Smile,” an organization which supports the evacuees, that organized the gathering, with assistance from AAR Japan. A total of 28 people participated. Junnko Matsuo, the person who organized the gathering, said, “It is difficult for some of the victims to attend a weekday party, so I planned a holiday lunch party so that more people can attend and enjoy a time of chatting.” The participants had an enjoyable time talking about recent happenings in their lives for about three hours over a buffet-style lunch. It was a superb lunch full of lively conversations.
Disaster victims from Fukushima prefecture having a pleasant time on an early Sunday afternoon.(10th, Sep. 2017)


The Great East Japan Earthquake:The Newly-built Katatsumuri, A Social Welfare Facility is now Completed

The previous Social Welfare Facility was lost in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake

 A social welfare facility, Katatsumuri, (“Katatsumuri means “snails” in Japanese) was founded in 2001 by approximately 20 families of children with intellectual disabilities. Initially, they rented an old structure in the vicinity of the seaport of Ohfunato City, Iwate Prefecture, and held various events such as tea parties and excursions. As well, the families undertook campaigns promoting access to helpful lifestyle advice and information among participants to create a valuable space for children in addition to their schools.
Staff members and users of Katatsumuri who
started apple-cultivation with aids from AAR Japan,
being accompanied by Akiko KATO (Left, AAR Japan).
(January 2015)


The Great East Japan Earthquake: For those who have no place to go…Opened after clearing the woods

Lavorare Pecore, a type-B support centre for ongoing employment, began its operations on July 29th in the town of Murone, Ichinoseki city, Iwate Prefecture. It is administered by the “Homare no kai” association. Despite the rain, approximately 100 project members and community locals attended the opening ceremony, which was complemented by an elegant harp concert. Lavorare Pecore is a facility surrounded by nature with an extensive area of almost 1 hectare, or 2.45 acres. It was a long and hard road before Lavorare Pecore was able to begin its operations.

Overwhelmingly insufficient number of facilities
The four board members of the “Homare no kai” are all from Kesennuma city and survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. They had engaged in supporting people with disabilities for many years. While the four of them worked in a consultation office, they realized that there were not enough places who would receive victims whom had suffered from the earthquake or received abuse by their family members. Many of them had nowhere to go because their conditions did not fulfill the criteria of existing facilities. Thus, the members of “Homare no kai” felt those services were limited. It was then that they were approached by an earthquake survivor who ran a landscaping business. As he was going to close down his business, he offered for them to use his land and house in Murone. The four members all agreed immediately to establish a new place for those who were having difficulties finding a facility.

An image illustrated by Mr. SUGAWARA, a representative of the board who is also a certified landscape designer. In this illustration, he expresses his hope that all residents will live happily and in peace for the rest of their lives.

However, with little funding, the operation hit a rough patch. Having only the four board members to clear the dense woods in the area, as well as restore the house whose floor had fallen through from a leaky roof, was very challenging and made them feel discouraged on many occasions. But, each time they remembered the faces of those who are not accepted by any facility they were motivated to overcome their struggles, finally opening a group home in November, 2016. They were convinced that there were still more needs to be satisfied and came to the decision to launch this support center.
After being referred by Mr. Ryuichi MIURA of Japan Platform, Tohoku office, AAR Japan provided a part of the costs connected to the construction of the building (the photo on the right). AARJ Japan also provided full funding for the plumbing, transportation of the arbor and garden planter, as well as donating the kitchen equipment. All of this was done with the assistance of AEON 1% Club Foundation.
This arbor and garden planter were transported here from the former temporary housing at Hiraishi elementary school. (July 29th, 2017)

For the time being, the plan for the newly opened type B center “Lavorare Pecore” is to prepare dishes with seasonal vegetables and local specialties, herd sheep and cultivate the seedlings of fruits, vegetables and flowers. They also aim to process and sell their wool or fruit products. The members hope that by interacting with animals and plants in nature, the residents and service users will gradually gain emotional stability and improve “their strength to live” in society. Moreover, making good use of their hectare of land (2.45 acres), they are aiming to not only be engaged in farming and produce specialties, but also to expand their business to distribution and sale. A mobile store to extend the outreach of “Lavorare Pecore” products to one-person households, elderly households and people in areas with little access to supermarkets is also being considered.
“Lavorare Pecore” means “a working sheep” in Italian. This is a photo of a farm located on the premises. They are aiming for production, processing, sale and distribution. (July 29th, 2017)

※This activity is operated with the assistance of Aeon 1% Club Foundation.

[Reporter] profile as of the date of the article
Shinichiro OHARA, AAR Japan Sendai office
Ohara joined AAR Japan in August 2011 after working in a manufacturing company. Based in Sendai, he visits affected areas such as Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima on a daily basis and is engaged in reconstruction assistance. He was born in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.

Japanese-English translation by Ms.Yukari Onda
English editing by Ms. Alice Chee

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan's Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field. 


Vulnerability Multiplied in Syria—Report on the Survivors of Explosive Devices—

AAR Japan, an international NGO, has conducted assessment on the survivors of the conflict inside Syria and published this report, Vulnerability Multiplied in Syria – Report on the Survivors of Explosive Devices –, which makes 6 proposals.

Assessment for this report was conducted over the course of 2016 in cooperation with a Syrian NGO, Hand in Hand for Syria, which began by identifying patients and former patients of medical facilities in northern Syria and entailed interviews with 2,036 survivors of the conflict including 475 children. The result revealed that the majority, 57%, of the survivors were victims of air strikes, followed by other explosive devices (22%) such as landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and improvised explosive devices (IED). In addition, many of the survivors sustained severe injuries and impairments including amputation, visual and hearing impairments in addition to fractures and wounds, resulting in a high level of dependency in activities of daily life like eating, toilet, washing, and dressing.

Furthermore, given the health care system decimated in the conflict, many of these survivors do not have access to adequate medical care, rehabilitation services, or assistive devices. In addition to the physical and psychological burden on the survivors themselves, in the absence of functioning social welfare system, providing assistance in every step of daily life places an enormous burden on the family members as well, not to mention the significant economic impact in case of severe injuries and impairments of main breadwinners of the household.

Based on these findings, AAR Japan proposes the following to aid organizations working in Syria and donor countries, corporations, and individuals that provide indirect support to humanitarian aid in Syria.

1.    Include provision of rehabilitation services and assistive devices in the intervention in consideration of the conflict survivors;
2.    Help build local capacities, local organizations and volunteers working in Syria, to be able to provide rehabilitation and trauma response through training and financial support;
3.    Enhance food security and livelihood support to those who lost jobs due to injuries and impairments;
4.    Improve referral mechanisms across sectors in order to provide comprehensive support to the injured who are particularly vulnerable;
5.    Conduct awareness raising activities to reduce stigma and combat the loss of dignity particularly by the injured;
6.    Adapt the contents of risk education to reflect the context of the ongoing Syrian conflict to maximize the effect.


Great East Japan Earthquake: Organizations that Support Voluntary Evacuees

6,000 Evacuees Live in Tokyo

Even though 6 years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, there remain approximately 109,000 individuals requiring assistance, who evacuated their home town as a result of the impact of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident. Of these, approximately 6,000 evacuees live in Tokyo (Reconstruction Agency, April 28, 2017). AAR Japan (Association for Aid and Relief) has been providing various forms of aid since immediately after the earthquake hit, and recently partnered with Musashino Smile, to begin providing aid to the evacuees who reside in Tokyo. Musashino Smile is an organization represented by Ms. Megumi Okada (picture below), an evacuee who fled from Fukushima city to Tokyo with her children, and is supported by various Tokyo-resident volunteers. On April 28, Musashino Smile hosted a “Yoransho Salon,” an event to encourage evacuees to visit and engage in light conversations over tea (picture to the right). “Yoransho” is a word from Fukushima that means “please stop by.” 16 evacuees from Fukushima and other areas participated in the event to exchange information and share updates.

Yoransho Salon was held at Musashino city, an evacuation destination for many evacuees. Yoransho Salon occurs once a month. (April 28th, 2017)