Oct 14, 2019

STL Field Worker Gurbet Shares From the Field

I got to know Sabah in Adana, during our field activities focusing on women’s empowerment. Sabah was married to a distant relative in Syria at a young age and lived relatively ‘normally’ until the war broke out. Once the clashes became widespread and her husband joined an armed group, her life changed altogether.

In the harsh circumstances of war, and in the absence of her husband, she did all in her power to keep her children safe as much as she could – like so many mothers were doing as this manmade disaster unfolded. Alas, their home was hit by an airstrike and they relocated to a camp outside the city. She can only find two words to describe the circumstances of the camp: “So hard.”

And then came the news of her husbands’ death. She has no words to describe the moment, but her teary eyes communicate the pain thoroughly.

Sabah and her kids stayed in that camp for more than a year. Then her family began speaking of a custom to protect the honour of the family. She was expected to marry the brother of her husband. She objected to this custom, refused to remarry and decided to cross the border to Turkey to live with other distant relatives.

Yet, the living conditions in their new address was not an improvement in any way. The only livelihood opportunity they had available to them was to join the workforce in seasonal agriculture. They were toiling for long days without end and for very little pay. To earn a living, she went straight to work – with no time to register herself or children to local authorities, without any form of insurance or social security.

Seasonal agriculture work is especially harsh on women. The environment is physically, socially and psychologically challenging with ‘disaster-like’ conditions of shelter, sanitation and hygiene. The seclusion brings along all sorts of risks for women especially.

Sabah did the best she could because her only hope was to raise her kids and offer them a safe future. Some days, her 14-year-old son would have to head to the fields, the middle child would deal with the chores back at the tent, and the youngest one would draw a portrait of a man, saying it’s her dad. She recalls these as memories of the past now, and as sources of hope that illuminated the future.

I learned a lot 

Oct 14, 2019

One administrative error can cause a great deal

Ala and Suad are originally from Sinjar, Iraq. They came to Turkey through Syria in 2015 with their two children. Suad was working in the construction sector, he could receive his pay on time, they had relatives nearby so they had a relatively stable living. Their third child, Mustafa, was born here in Mersin 18 months ago. And this is when things became complicated for the family.

As a piece of background info, you should know that in Turkey, while Iraqi refugees are registered under ‘international protection’ status, Syrian refugees are registered under ‘temporary protection status. Thus, being of Iraqi origin, Ala and Suad’s family was registered under ‘international protection’.

Ala explains that, when Mustafa was born and registered, she noticed that his protection ID looked different than theirs. And she thought ‘Oh, as he is born here, maybe he just became a Turkish citizen!’ and sensed a bittersweet joy that her son would perhaps have a safe future guaranteed no matter how events unfolded back home. This was not the case though…

Only later on, when Mustafa was already a few months old and got sick, that this mistake was noticed. A staff member at the hospital noticed that the child, despite being Iraqi, had a temporary protection ID. Local authorities were informed and as it happened, the family was fined for ‘forgery.’ On top of it, Mustafa lost his status and thus a there was a hospital fee to be paid! This is when they family contacted Support to Life. As soon as being notified, STL got in touch with all relevant parties – the registration office, the hospital, the bar association. Necessary documentation was issued to clarify the situation and once it became clear that this was simply an administrative error that took place at the population office, the hospital bill was cancelled, Mustafa’s status was corrected and the fine was cancelled.

We encounter this all too often, an official ‘status,’ simple as it may sound, is highlight deterministic in the lives of refugees and is open to all sorts of complications. This is why, our case management teams work in 9 different locations of Turkey, ready to respond to urgent matters, help refugees navigate formalities and bureaucratic complications.

Jun 10, 2019

2018 At a Glance

Here at Support to Life, we operate with full financial and operational transparency. In this vein, we’ve recently completed our Annual Report covering all our activities throughout 2018(English version available on our website soon). Thus in this report, I will use the opportunity to provide all supporters with a recap of the range of activities we’ve implemented to support refugee babies in Turkey.

First off, we start with the baby care packs, which are an integral part of the project we raise funds for here. Throughout 2018, we’ve been able to provide baby care packs for a total of 204 mothers and their babies. That’s more than $14,000 worth of baby care items that have reached directly those who need them the most.

But this is just a “first step” assistance. Let us now forget that the Syrian War is in its 9th year now and has caused a situation we refer to as “prolonged displacement.” Individuals and families that had to leave their homes due to war began new lives in Turkey and other surrounding countries. Children born back in those early years are now at schooling age. Thus, we care a great deal about facilitating their access to education services. In this context, throughout 2018, we’ve provided “school packs” to 560 children. Inside the backpacks we provided, they found stationary items such as pens, pencils and notebooks.

In addition, we helped 1239 children enroll to school. Simple as it may sound, enrollment processes are easily complicated for Syrians for either bureaucratic reasons or due to the family’s pressing need to maximize the labor potential of their families – resorting to “negative coping mechanisms” such as child labor.

Our support did not end there either, we provided tutoring support for children who have difficulty keeping up with their classes. Even after enrollment, Syrian youth often find it difficult to keep up with their peers due to social cohesion issues, language difficulties or war trauma. In this domain, we helped 789 children with their studies.

Meanwhile, we target parents as well; sensitizing them about the negative effects of child labor, importance of schooling, the hazards of early marriages.

With your support, we continue our activities in 2019. We seek to ensure that, in the prolonged displacement situation that the Syrian crisis is, no kid is left behind.

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