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.