Read our 2022 annual report
'We are one family' - how a community centre became a beacon of hope for people in Türkiye
CHILDREN no longer have to work and can attend school. Hot drinks were given to survivors to help them to stay warm within hours of a deadly earthquake. An assistant provides translation support to a man with a disability as he attends his medical appointments. These are just some of the ways that a cherished community centre has become a beacon of hope and stability for people in Türkiye.
Outside of Haliliye Community Centre in Şanlıurfa is a large mural, multicoloured letters spell out "end racism, build peace", alongside illustrations of a dove carrying an olive branch, a rainbow and dozens of handprints.
Inside the building, similar artwork lines the walls, conveying messages of hope, community, love and tolerance. These messages are a clear indication of what community members can expect when they come to the centre, which is funded by the European Union.
The centre provides services including practical advice for refugees who are new to the area, such as information about school enrollment or how to procure legal assistance.
'I have started to see my children smile'
We visit the community centre on a day that the community committee is holding one of their monthly sessions. The committee is a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, who attend information workshops and also raise any issues that may be affecting themselves or other people they know, they then pass this information onto the wider community.
In today’s session, facilitators are leading an information workshop about tackling gender-based violence (GBV) and the committee members are engaged, lively and respectful as they participate in the session.
Hussam* (62) is one of the community committee members, and he says that becoming involved in the group has been life-changing for himself and his family.
Hussam and his family had moved to Türkiye from Syria after the conflict broke out in 2013. They lived in a refugee camp for several years, which was particularly challenging for Hussam as he has a visual impairment.
He was referred to the community centre by a friend in 2018, when his family was moving out of the camp.
He said: “I left the camp because it was difficult to reach the facilities there because of problems with my vision. I was sending my children to work in order to meet our basic needs.
“One of the neighbours asked me why I didn't send my children to the school, he then told me that there is a community centre in the city centre where Concern is operating.
“My children were collecting garbage to earn money, they were referred to receive psychosocial support (PSS).
“I also have some health issues, so the team was accompanying me to the hospital, translating for me, this helped me to get the medication that I needed.
As a family, we were also supported by Concern with vouchers and with paying the rent of our house. Everyone’s well-being increased.
Hussam continued to say that he can notice a positive difference in his children’s personalities.
"The first intervention was to stop sending my children to work and to link them with the PSS activities here in the community centre.
“I have started to see my children smile and I realised that they have right to play, to learn and to go to school. While in the past they were busy working in order to support our family. The activities make the children really happy.
“After leaving the camp it was a little difficult for the children to adapt to the current situation that they are going to school, they are going to PSS activities, they are going to the to meet the psychologist. Attending school and the programmes has really helped their development," Hussam explained.
'We are one family in the centre'
His brother Azzam* (55) is the chairman of the community committee in Şanlıurfa and he said that the centre has provided some stability in his life.
He spoke about how life changed after the crisis in Syria began, saying: “Before the conflict in my country, everything was under control, everything was nice, I had a good job as an English teacher, I had a good home, a good family and I had a lot of friends. When the conflict started in my country, everything changed, I don't like to remember what happened...
“I'm trying, I have responsibilities as a volunteer in the community committee with Concern. It’s wonderful for me, it lets me forget what I have suffered. It helps me to feel confidence in myself... I feel that we are one family in the centre."
The community centre also opened its doors within hours of the devastating earthquakes last February - which killed more than 50,000 people and affected millions more - to support others by providing essentials such as hot meals, water and blankets.
“We had very bad days after the earthquake, it was terrible, everything changed, the world kept shaking and shaking. I ask God to never let that day to come again.
“From that first day, Concern opened the centre and all of the staff here were ready to help," Azzam said.
Said*is the Protection District Team Leader in Şanlıurfa and he spoke about the importance of the community centre and the protection programme.
He said: “When you see the impact and the result of the outcome of your intervention that you have really made a change in people’s lives, you realise that you are doing something valuable for people. It is also valuable for you as well, as you are learning from the communities, and you are learning from your colleagues.
“I will always remember the response to the earthquake, we were in the in the field within hours of the earthquake. When people are really asking for support, Concern is on the ground and supporting people.”
*Names have been changed
Our impact in 2022
people reached through our emergency response
people reached through our health interventions
people reached through our livelihoods programmes