May 13, 2019

Not Giving Up On Education - Against All Odds

Habibe
Habibe

Mother’s day is a good day to once again repeat that we stand for equality, justice, and freedom for not just mothers, but all the women of the world, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, or socio-economic standing. We strive to make possible a future where each and every woman is able to express herself freely, enjoy equal opportunities, and stand firmly on her own feet. In this report, we wish to make two women heard by you, our supporters.

Habibe is a 47-year-old woman currently living in the city of Mardin in Turkey. She’s been passionate about education all her life, and this has put her ‘at odds’ with her family at times. But she never lost her dynamism and strength, and still believes in herself, believes that she can achieve her dreams.

“My son is studying tourism, and I am studying sociology. We care a great deal about education. I have three children, they’ve all studied. I studied theology back in Syria. Even though my older brother forced me to marry a bigoted man, and even though he pressured me not to do so, I’ve finished school. After that I was the sole bread-winner in my household for many years. I came to Turkey two years ago, with my daughter. My daughter also has been unlucky with her marriage; she hasn’t been able to go to school. But I will make sure my son studies, no matter what. I’m unemployed since two weeks, I worked in a soap workshop before. But that’s alright, I can find a new job. I just received my papers from Syria, showing my bachelor’s degree. I hope to complete a graduate degree here. But first, I wish to correct the biggest mistake of my life – I will get divorced. Actually we are already separated 8 years a –I’ve been on my own, taking care of my kids throughout this war. But this divorce has symbolic importance for me. By doing it, I want to communicate a message to my family that insisted I marry him, and also to my kids that also try to hold on to life against all odds. As a woman, I challenge what was ‘deemed proper’ for me, I reject this wrongdoing and I will change it.”

Sena’s story also revolves around her ambitions to study and to achieve her full potential. At 21, she is much younger but sees no time to waste.

“My name is Sena, I am currently 21 and I live in the city of Adana in Turkey. I’ve been studying since 4-years-old. I had to leave 17 years of education back in Syria. I actually had an entirely different set of plans and dreams. I was studying to be a primary school teacher. When we had to leave due to war, I couldn’t finish my degree. But I didn’t just give in. There was an exam here in Turkey, institutions giving Arabic classes were about to recruit teachers. I took the exam and succeeded. I worked as a teach for about 5 months but then failed to get an extension on my working contract because I didn’t have a teacher’s degree. But I know that I can continue my education in Turkey. Right now, we work in a farm with my whole family. But I also study for my Turkish proficiency exams. Besides, with this job, I am saving money to go back to school. My biggest dream right now is to have a self-sustaining life by working as a teacher. My older sister has been successful, and I will follow her path.”

How we support women, who are seeking to make a change in their lives against all odds? Through vocational and language classes, employability trainings, job placements, social cooperatives… We also help them navigate the bureaucracy. If their state is particularly vulnerable and they have special protection needs, we act fast and ensure their wellbeing. Please continue supporting us so that we can keep supporting lives in 9 cities of Turkey, with our 300-large Support to Life team.

Sena
Sena
May 13, 2019

Access to Healthcare is Crucial

“I and my husband Muhammed recently had a boy, Muhammed Ali. He is 9 months old now. He’s been diagnosed with down syndrome recently, Support to Life helped us navigate the whole process with the hospital – my son’s registration has been a problem right from the beginning, it’s a huge problem when you are trying to get medical attention.”

Mohammed (33) and Tulin (23) met in Istanbul and got married here. Tulin, however, did not have a ‘Temporary protection ID’ because since a while back, it is not possible for recently-arrived Syrian refugees to register in Istanbul – it is part of the Turkish government’s policy to curb Syrian influx to Istanbul from smaller cities. Thus, their marriage was never formalized with public authorities. This inevitably created an obstacle when Tulin gave birth to Muhammed Ali.

While Syrians registered under ‘temporary protection’ status are able to access basic services like healthcare, it is often that disorderly patterns of migration give rise to difficulties when registering and refugees are left without any protective status. In Tulin and Mohammed’s case, this led to greater difficulties as Muhammed Ali got diagnosed with jaundice when only one week old: “We went to Muhammed Ali’s first check-up when he was one week old. My boy was diagnosed with jaundice. The doctor told us that his condition was critical. However, we had no money. We got a transfer to the state hospital. Muhammed Ali stayed in the incubator for 9 days and finally he was fine. But we still had to pay to the hospital. When I couldn’t pay, they took me to the manager and he told me that what we did here constituted a crime. My 10-day old child had jaundice, how can this be a crime?”

This is when Support to Life (STL) stepped in; liaising with local authorities to first register the newborn on his father’s ID so that he could receive medical attention. As a result of these efforts, the family was able register their child under the father’s name, and get his ‘temporary protection ID’ issued. Although things got easier from then on, STL followed up with Tulin’s case because even Syrians with the temporary protection status have issues accessing healthcare. The language barrier often makes it difficult for them to discuss symptoms or treatment with medical professionals at the hospitals. STL provided translation support to Tulin’s family and during Muhammed Ali’s regular check-ups, he was diagnosed with down syndrome. Although such news are hard to take in, at least timely diagnosis was made possible with bureaucratic and practical assistance provided.

As STL, we’ll keep on offering our support to Muhammed Ali to ensure that his family have to means to raise him a healthy individual. It is time and again proven that children with down syndrome can grow up to be highly functional and self-reliant. We hope to do everything within our power to make sure that Muhammed Ali’s case is no different.

Mar 12, 2019

Elvin's Day at the Hospital

Delizia Flaccavento, Mersin, 2019
Delizia Flaccavento, Mersin, 2019

Elvin is 30 years old, married and has two children – Eflin and Aden. They live in Kazanli, where farming (especially greenhouses) is the main source of livelihood. The day we reach there is just a couple of days after a strong storm. Some greenhouses have their roofs blown over and as we drive in the narrow roads between the fields, looking for Elvin’s home, care-takers are hard at work to get them fixed.

Kazanli is remote. It is a farming town about 20 kilometers away from Mersin in Southern Turkey. Rows of greenhouses seem never-ending and there appear to be no distinct landmarks to give directions to. We have no trouble finding Elvin’s home thanks to modern technology though – she had sent us her location via WhatsApp earlier.

Elvin’s husband is at work when we arrive. Elvin welcomes us in and we are greeted by Aden, a 2-year-old girl with curious eyes. She seems happy to see us and giggles as we greet her. We walk into the living room and this time are greeted by Eflin’s equally friendly and cheerful manners. Eflin is Aden’s older brother, at age 5. He cannot move on his own as he recently had a procure and both his legs are in casts. This is part of an ongoing treatment he is undergoing due to a condition he has from birth.

“He is still in casts, but his mood is great. He took up an interest in drawing, so he either watches cartoons or draws for most of the time. I am giving him his injections and getting him to do his physiotherapy. I learned them from his doctor,” Elvin explains. Noting our surprise, she adds, “I studied nursing back home.”

Eflin was just 20 days old when they crossed the border as a family of three 5 years ago. Elvin’s husband worked at a local restaurant back in Damascus. When the clashes broke out, Elvin was a fresh graduate and they had to leave their home soon after. Their arrival to Mersin was mainly so that her husband could find work. Eflin explains that opportunities for work are a little bit better here but her husband still has to work very long hours to earn a living. 

The Turkish labor market is not easy to navigate for Syrian refugees. Unemployment in the country is already high, at about 12 percent. In certain regions, scarcity in the labor or housing markets result in social cohesion challenges, including tensions with the local population. Moreover, Turkey, with an informal sector size at about 25–30 percent of official GDP, has the largest informal sector size (relative to GDP) among OECD members. This means that working without job security or insurance for little pay is commonplace – especially for Syrian refugees. Among nearly 4 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, only about 28 thousand have work permits. Thus, many Syrians work informally with no stable income and often at risky jobs. Elvin says her husband has the Sundays off, but something extra often comes up and he works to make some extra money. Elvin notes that her husband’s exhausting work routine and Eflin’s treatment are the two main reason why she would like to move to a third country if they get the chance.

Since they are living in a remote area, loneliness is also a constant challenge for Elvin and her family. But she has a positive outlook. She says, “we don’t have any family or relatives here, but we are getting to know the people little by little.” Speaking of how isolation and the language barrier affects her life, she remembers how she found out about Support to Life and the support it provides to refugees:

“Language is a big issue… I remember, it was only when Eflin was 1.5 years-old that we realized he had this condition. But we couldn’t get him any treatment until Support to Life came into the picture. I recall very clearly. It was already a big effort to take Eflin to the hospital. I had to commute 20 kilometers and the minibuses didn’t want to pick us up because his stroller takes space. When I finally took him to the doctor, he examined him and began explaining things to me. But I could not understand a word of it. I took a seat in some corner and began to cry. Then there was this lady sitting next to me. She told me that there was this organization which, among other things, helped with the official documents, also gave translation support in hospitals and government offices and such.”

Hosting 3.6 million refugees poses serious challenges to the Turkish health system; in terms of shaping policy, organizing services and mobilizing resources. This is especially true for those provinces with the largest numbers of refugees: Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Hatay, Istanbul, Mersin and Adana. In addition to overstretched health capacities, language and cultural barriers are significant obstacles to refugees’ access to health service, as patients are often unable to describe their symptoms or understand instructions for treatment (1).

The work we conduct in Mersin as the implementing partner of Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe and with the financing of European Union through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations focuses mainly on closing these ‘gaps’ and facilitating marginalized or at-risk refugees’ access to their basic needs and rights. In this case, the story of our engagement with Elvin and her son Eflin is one that demonstrates how the language barrier or intricacies of bureaucratic processes can have a dramatic effect on the wellbeing of individuals and families.

Elvin recalls that when she consulted with Support to Life, her main purpose was to get an official disability report for Eflin. She had already accepted it; no treatment was going to be possible. Support to Life took over the process and Eflin could receive medical attention. As Elvin explains, “Soon, it became clear that there was hope, his condition was potentially curable. STL facilitated the process with the hospital and he had his first operation before it was too late. After his casts are removed, he will wear braces for a while and then he will have to have another operation. If all goes well, he may be able to walk.”

As we pronounce often, our mission is to ‘help disaster-affected individuals and communities meet their basic needs and rights’ and we do this in a variety of contexts, with differing methodologies ranging from direct provision of protection services to information provision and legal consultancy, from advocacy to awareness raising. In addition to these, sometimes we address the needs that are easily overlooked yet are most fundamental – such as the need to be understood and the need to understand.

The influx of Syrian refugees has, without doubt, introduced previously unseen challenges to local capacities – in healthcare, education or other services. Public institutions and other service providers are often overwhelmed and thus vulnerable individuals and families have difficulties accessing basic needs and services. This is why we work in 8 cities of Turkey with great scrutiny when identifying what kind of obstacles refugees face when trying to meet their needs and rights.

Elvin’s son will soon have his second operation and will then hopefully head for school standing tall on his feet. And if his parents, like thousands of individuals and families we come in contact with every year, soon need our assistance getting him registered to the school, we’ll be there for them. 

 
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