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After eleven years of war in Syria, many refugees are still working to integrate into Turkish society and education. With funding from EU Humanitarian Aid, Concern is providing them with the support they need to secure quality education for their children.
Before fleeing the war in Syria, Elmira had to take on more responsibility at a younger age than many of her peers. She became a mother as a teenager and started sewing for a living at the age of fourteen. Having only had the chance to attend primary school herself, she prioritised a better education for children.
Like so many others, Elmira’s life was devastated by the war in Syria. The experience of bringing her family to Turkey had a deep psychological impact on her. Elmira was also mourning the loss of her sister who was murdered by her husband.
“You cannot imagine the consequences of losing loved ones and seeing death everywhere.” she says. “It is indescribable.”
“The safety and education of my children were the biggest motivators for us coming to Turkey,” she explained. However, securing an education for her children became more complicated in a new country. Elmira had to find new ways to pay rent and other daily expenses in a country where she had no support network and didn’t speak the language. Initially, Elmira’s children dropped out of school to work in the recyclable waste collection business on the streets.
“You cannot imagine to what extent I was suffering silently when I saw him watching other friends and relatives going to school, while he was coming home with dirty, worn clothes from collecting garbage."
After connecting with one of Concern’s community centres, Elmira’s children were able to return to school. One of Concern’s key objectives in Turkey is to fight child labour through education, by providing families with financial support so children can attend school. “The best support provided to me is that it enabled me to get my child once again to school.”
With funding from the EU's humanitarian funding arm Concern aims to identify gaps in the humanitarian response and provide services to refugees living in Turkey in close collaboration with the Turkish government. Through this EU funded programme, Elmira was also able to access support from a psychologist at a local community centre. This support has helped her process her experiences.
“All the support that I have been given has revived my ambition that I can be more active in society and provide more support to my family,” Elmira explains.
Since receiving support, Elmira has started sewing again and hopes to work towards opening a small business of her own. In the short term she feels she will be able to secure her children’s education.
“Right now, I am a healthy woman concerned mainly about taking care of my family and developing myself in any way possible.”
At an age when most children are in school and making friends for the first time, Halid was crossing mountain ranges fleeing conflict. He and his family were making the journey from Syria into Turkey, often walking long into the night.
Halid was just four years old when his family fled to Damascus, leaving behind their home and friends. Financial insecurity meant the family were forced to move again, making their way north to Idlib. By this time the war had caused huge damage to the country and devastated the economy. They saw no other option but to flee to Turkey.
However, their problems did not end after the arduous journey to Turkey. “I was ready to find work, but it was difficult, especially because I still can’t walk properly since my traffic accident back in Syria. I could not find a job.” Halid's father Ibrahim, had worked as an IT teacher before the war, but now he was struggling to support his family.
With funding from European Union Humanitarian Aid, Concern was able to support the family’s immediate needs, including supplying mattresses, blankets and pillows, supermarket gift cards, and rent payments as Ibrahim completed the application process for social security. However, the experience of continually fleeing had longer term effects on Halid. By his fourteenth birthday, most of his life had been overshadowed by the effects of war
“He kept to himself a lot, didn’t express his feelings, didn’t make any friends or played with the neighbourhood children.”
“Sometimes, he reacted very aggressively towards his younger siblings.” Ibrahim adds. Halid was displaying symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Under the Psychosocial Support Programme (PSS) children like Halid are provided support to improve their emotional and mental wellbeing, build their self-confidence, and develop problem solving and communication skills.
Concern has developed a holistic approach, in line with government policy, to prepare the children of refugees for education within the Turkish system. The programme focuses on three areas: access, quality and wellbeing. Sessions are conducted in Turkish as well as the children’s first language, usually Arabic. Here, children acquire foundational language skills, learning through play.
After the Concern Education team registered Halid for this programme, Ibrahim began to notice a change. “He is now more sociable and is kind to his siblings and the people around him. He now shares his feelings and is generally happier.”
With funding from European Union Humanitarian Aid, Concern is supporting individual and community resilience, as well as promote social cohesion.