Looking for an Inspiration to Start Over?
Meet Rojin, Ragat, Ahmad and Mustafa who had to leave their country - Syria – several years ago and start over in Turkey. The EU supports a number of UNICEF-ASAM child safe spaces in Turkey so that children have the opportunity to do just that.
Story and photo: Berna Çetin
It is often said: "every cloud has a silver lining" or, "you can always find your way if you are willing to". What could be worse than facing war and having to leave your home, never knowing when you may be able to return? Just like many Syrian women, Rojin has had to go through this trauma, but she has used the opportunities Turkey has offered her to grow intellectually. She has been in Turkey for 5 years now and has become fluent in Turkish. She has 4 children - 3 boys and 1 girl; they are all going to school. In a way leaving home and coming to a foreign country has awakened her. She became more aware of her own strength, abilities, and her potential. "I am 29 years old. I wish I had this understanding when I was 14, when getting married" she says. "As a child I dreamt of becoming a teacher or a doctor but my father wouldn’t allow me to get an education; I got married at 14. When we came to Turkey, my husband put my eldest son to work, but I knew that wasn’t right. I think as parents we give our children life; we are responsible for feeding them and educating them. I am still responsible for my 14 year old son. I fought for this and after two years I put him in school and started working myself. He is happy now, and I am happy to be able to provide for him. I was re-born when I came to Turkey. I know women have a right to work and children have a right to get an education."
Rojin is working as a translator at a UNICEF Child and Family Support Centre called Al Farah (My Happiness) run by the Turkish Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants (ASAM). She helps her fellow citizens to access services offered by the centre. No doubt this place has played a role in helping Rojin gain confidence. The centre offers structured psycho-social support, as well as inclusive and participatory trainings to adolescents and youth on civic engagement, peacebuilding, and social cohesion. This centre in Ankara's Altındağ district is one of 3 child and family support centres the EU supports in Ankara, İzmir and Gaziantep. Operating under a €36 million project with UNICEF, the action's aim is to assist refugees in Turkey and contribute towards social cohesion by also involving the host communities.
Rojin is not the only one benefiting from this centre. Ragat is a teenage girl regularly attending the centre. "Ragat means a beautiful life" she explains with her perfect Turkish. Being a stranger and feeling excluded are common sentiments that refugees have; Ragat overcomes this feeling with her Turkish friend Berivan. "My friend Berivan is a very nice person, she explains the lessons that I don’t understand, and she always helps me. It's been two years since we came from Aleppo. When the war is over I want to go back, continue my high school education and become an English translator."
Ahmed and Mustafa are brothers from Aleppo and have been living in Ankara, enjoying the activities offered such as picnicking, dancing, visiting aquariums and animal shelters, among many others. They come to the center almost every day to make friends and learn new skills.
Turkey now hosts some 3.7 million refugees, of which over 3.4 million are Syrians. That's 3.7 million lives that have changed completely due to crises out of the control of these persons. What they can control, however, is the way they will continue to live their lives. The child and family support centres help them start over and gain confidence in the future.