Stepping up to Develop a Better Future
Photos and story: Berna Çetin
The communities thrive on working together; and this way they improve, solve problems, hand-in-hand. No matter how small the size of an office or how big the community is, interaction is the key. Sometimes people need a little push or a motivation; and this is where the socio-economic projects implemented under the Facility for Refugees in Türkiye come in.
The projects are implemented all over Türkiye, which hosts the biggest number of refugees in the world and especially in the cities with the highest concentration, like Istanbul. Many projects reach out equally to Turkish people as well as the Syrian community to meet their needs. Needs start from very young age, especially in schools. The efforts to increase school attendance rates for young students, instead of working at low income jobs to support their families, have paid off.
New equipment and renovated workshops for schools
With the EU's financial support KfW (German Bank for Reconstruction) works together with MoNE (Ministry of National Education) to provide equipment for workshops of VET (vocational education and training) Institutions; to support students in their education by providing transportation, educational and practising material and lunch; to create awareness among Syrian and Turkish adolescents, families and business people about possibilities of VET via communication and information activities. The question usually asked is "Is it for Syrian students only?" The answer is "It is for every student in the schools under the project; Syrian, Turkish and other, in fact more than 40 nationalities." A group of students at Ali Kul Vocational and Technical High School are excited that their electronic, hair-dressing, computer etc workshops are being renovated. Sidra is one of the students who will benefit from this equipment who is 16 years old and has been in Türkiye for 9 years. She says she feels at home in Türkiye. "I would feel strange if I go back to Syria as I spent most of my life in Türkiye. My younger sister came to Türkiye when she was 5 months old." She wants to study accounting or IT and help her mother provide for the family. Mohamed is 19, studies accounting and wants to study economics. Mohamed and his family came from Damascus. The only city that he saw besides Istanbul is Çanakkale and wants to see the Black Sea Region; his dream may come true with the awareness activities that the schools will organize thanks to this project.
"The jackets I make are being worn in Europe"
EU is working with TOBB (The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Türkiye) to reach the private sector too. One of the companies participating in the project is Desa, a well-known leather company; thanks to the project, the employees working in the production were able to get a vocational qualification certificate. Such certificate is mandatory in certain fields. Arife and Maksud are a few among hundreds of people who received a certificate for the job they have been doing. "I've been working on cutting leather for 27 years. I am happy that now my work is being certified. It gives me confidence", says Maksud. Arife tells how proud she is to work at Desa, knowing that the company exports overseas: "The leather jackets, bags and shoes are being used by people in Europe and all over the world. My work is appreciated across the world, this makes me so proud."
"I feel confident that I am working legally"
Not only large companies but also small and medium size enterprises can benefit from projects supported by the EU. World Bank is working with İŞKUR (Turkish Employment Agency) and KOSGEB (Small and Medium Enterprises Development Organization of Türkiye) to reach them. Boraq Group is a software company which works with Arabic countries; this is why Syrian software specialists and sales representatives are needed. Thanks to this project the company was able to find the best fit through İŞKUR. İŞKUR pays the employees daily until their work permit is issued and provides on-the-job training for 6 months. At the end of the training, companies employ 20% of the trainees. Yaman needed this job to provide support for his family "I have social security and my work permit will be issued. In the meantime I can benefit from on the job training in an area relevant to my educational background and get a salary. I have to work one way or another but now I feel confident that I am able to work legally." This way workers are registered in the system, companies can hire employees that meet their needs and refugees can be legally employed in line with their professions. This is a win-win for all and for the economy.
From Şanlıurfa to Afrika
Some projects support people who start their own businesses. Ayman was able to have 25K Turkish lira grant to develop a website, print brochures and receive mentorship for his business. He is 29 and an electronic engineer; he produces diapers in Şanlıurfa and exports them to African countries like Chad, Cameroon and so on. Also, he collects faulty diapers from France, have them repaired by people in Syria and then sells them to Africa. "The mentorship was very important to expand my business. We received trainings and our mentors visit our office regularly to make sure we are reaching our goals." He says a lot of Syrian business people opened business in Türkiye and took part in the Turkish economy providing employment opportunities to the communities that they are working in.
All these and many other projects that support community centers, vocational courses and language courses are organised all over Türkiye to provide opportunities to refugees and host communities. Under the overall €6 billion envelope for the Facility for Refugees, the EU allocated to the socio-economic sector almost 1 million in order to provide opportunities for a better future.