Safe spaces for children in Turkey

Published: 15 December 2015 21:51 CET

By Turkish Red Crescent Society

“My family came to Turkey because of the fighting and because my parents were worried about the abduction of girls,” explains Maya. “Houses were being hit and everyone was scared for us children,” adds Mehmet.

Mehmet and Maya are youth volunteers at the Turkish Red Crescent Society’s child friendly space in the city of Şanlıurfa, near the border with Syria. Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable migrants have moved from Syria to this part of Turkey seeking safety and almost 50 per cent of Syrians in Turkey are children. In partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and UNICEF, the Turkish Red Crescent Society manages 28 child-friendly spaces as part of its humanitarian response.

The child-friendly spaces, large tents located in temporary protection camps or community centres in urban locations, enable girls and boys to have a safe environment to learn Turkish and English, play games and do recreational activities, receive psychosocial support and education. They also learn about preventing bullying, trafficking and child marriage – these being forms of violence that are a major concern for child migrants.

Maya and Mehmet have learned new skills and also become dedicated Red Crescent youth volunteers who mentor other girls and boys at the child-friendly space. 

“I love the activities with the younger children,” says Maya. “They are so happy when we play with them or help them with activities. When we support them, we also learn important things like responsibility.”

The Turkish Red Crescent Society also conducts child protection activities. Professional social workers visit migrant families to understand their needs and challenges, and to help provide access to local health, psychosocial and protection services. The Red Crescent also works to enable safer conditions for children within communities.

The Turkish Red Crescent is now working to scale-up its efforts to reach children in settlements that are hardest to reach, for example, through two mobile child-friendly spaces that will drive to remote locations and spend several weeks in each place.

In just over two years, the Turkish Red Crescent Society has reached 100,000 girls and boys and plans to increase the number of child-friendly spaces across the country.