TİFAKE Helping Refugees in Turkey Project.
The Syrian civil war, which kicked off in March 2011, has claimed at least 470 thousand lives, mostly civilians. Over the past six years, thirteen out of 20 million Syrian citizens have become dependent on humanitarian assistance. While the conflict displaced 7.6 million Syrians, approximately 5.1 million people took refuge in neighboring countries.
According to the current data, Turkey hosts more than 3.5 million refugees and according to UN data, more that 1.5 million of them are refugees.
As Scouting and Guiding Federation of Turkey (TIF), it was impossible for us to ignore these people in need.
Our Federation is actively working since the beginning of the crisis. Our first efforts were to organize fundraising campaigns in order to send basic humanitarian need like food, water and clothing with the cooperation of the scouts inside Syria. Secondly we facilitated leadership training to the adult refugees in order introduce scouting among refugees in our country. After this period we looked for ways to provide long-term support.
Our first option to achieve this was to rent a place which will act as coordination center for the sustainability and coordination of our efforts. Our Federation has rented a 3-storey building and turned it to a coordination center. The grant that we’ve received from the Messengers of Peace program was really helpful during this process. To meet the logistical needs in the area two humanitarian aid vehicles were bought and modified.
After this point, as the leaders with humanitarian aid training, we started volunteering for a 1 week period in this center. People from all over Turkey are volunteering to be a part of something good. As leaders we are working with children affected by war in order to rehabilitate them through scouting method. Apart from the work that we undertake in the area, our Federation is supporting the participation of these children to our regular and national camps to help them get away from the negative atmosphere even just for a second.
Our effort has spread to a wider framework when we started cooperating with the humanitarian aid organizations in the area, especially with AFAD and Turkish Red Crescent. We are taking part in the sorting and packing of the aids which will be sent inside Syria. We also communicated with the local authorities to gain their support for the Syrian Scouts in Hatay. Our efforts have resulted in allocation of a scout’s house by the Mayor.
The conditions in the area are tough. When I first arrived, I thought they were letting off fireworks when I hear the sounds. Later I learned that those were gunshots coming from the other side of the border. There can be terrorist attack in the area which can result in injuries or death. Conflicts with these groups sometimes result in forest fires. We are actively taking part in firefight efforts. None of the situations have stopped us from doing what we do.
Currently we are supporting more than 3000 scouts near the border and 2000 more in the big cities and we’ve been informed that we have taken part in sorting and packing of more than 110.000 pieces of humanitarian aids. Some of the biggest organizations which are working with orphans are requesting us to handle the education of the children. We ae not leaving the requests unanswered.
Our newest project is a long term facility to make refugee children; especially the orphans leave the stress in the area for a while and provide them with activities which will later help them to get a profession. Our Federation is planning to build a “scout village” which will have train children on husbandry, agriculture, trading, handcrafts in the 10 hectares of land that is allocated for this project to us. The landlord of this village will be the Syrian refugee scouts and the will also host other scouts in this village.
I am really proud to work to help people bind their wounds, to inspire other to work for the same purpose. I believe that, even the smallest act kindness that we do is one of the million pieces that required making this world a better place.
I only know this; we can never stop working for a better future, to ease others pain. Because we are scouts and no matter what the conditions are we will always work for a better future.
Elif Erdemir, TİFAKE Leader