The Help Refugees team have made their first visit to Turkey in anticipation of an increased need of aid after the EU/Turkey deal to turn back refugees from Europe.
We started our trip in Istanbul, home to 500,000 Syrian refugees. Our first trip was to one of the few free schools educating Syrian children. Many of their stories are unimaginable. Here they are learning the full Syrian curriculum including English, Turkish and many other key subjects. Some of these children have been out of education for years and this school is the only thing keeping them off the streets, selling tissues and begging for their families.
We met with Project Lift who help Syrian children with trauma through movement, music and art. We were blown away with the incredible work they do.
We were also able to meet up with our friends The White Helmets (The Civil Defence) who showed us pictures of the ambulances we bought in action in Syria (more on that soon).
We then traveled to Gaziantep, the closest major city to the Syrian border, where 400,000 Syrian refugees now live in a city with a population of 2m. 107,000 of these refugees are children that should be at school. Many live on the street and those that have found accommodation are struggling with rising rents. Whilst it is easier for a Syrian to find work in Turkey than Europe, they often earn poverty wages and are exploited by employers.
We met Ali who runs the incredible Geged organisation. They match make volunteers from around the world to local projects in need in Gaziantep. Through them we are providing the start up funding for a food programme for the poorest Syrian families in the area. They also help get street children into school and provide much needed respite spaces for those infants most in need.
We visited an orphanage for 84 Syrian children some of whom are under 1 years old. Whilst it’s so important that these kids have some sanctuary the conditions in the building were poor. The organisation survives on hand to mouth donations and could do with as much help as they can get.
Our last meeting was with the Syrian American Medical Service who provide medical services inside Syria as well as in most major refugee camps in the region. When the White Helmets pull people from the rubble they are often treated at SAMS clinics. Help Refugees talked about how SAMS could help us by sending doctors to areas of need in Europe and how we can assist in the camps.
This trip strengthened Help Refugees commitment to assisting grass roots projects who are consistently the first responders to the most immediate and long term needs of displaced people.
We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Many of the refugees we help are fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Others are trying to escape political oppression in countries like Eritrea. All are human beings like us. As well as providing immediate physical assistance, we want to help refugees maintain their dignity.
Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work in Calais, Dunkirk, Lesvos, Samos, Idomeni and other locations. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!