From sewing classes to computer courses: community centres in Turkey give Syrians a lifeline

Publié: 3 juin 2016 7:25 CET

By Nichola Jones, IFRC

Six community centres across Turkey are providing a lifeline to thousands of Syrians who have been forced to flee the war-torn country in search of safety.

The Turkish Red Crescent has set up centres in Sanliurfa, Konya, Ankara, İstanbul; and will set up 2 more in the upcoming weeks in Kilis and Istanbul’s European side to provide psychosocial support for 42,000 people from Syria each year.

The centres provide a sanctuary for children and adults in urban areas– an oasis where people can find Turkish language lessons, educational programmes, psychological support and therapy sessions and friendship with each other, with Red Crescent volunteers and with members of the local community.

One of the key services offered at the centres is vocational training – classes and courses designed to give people the chance to develop fresh skills and boost their chances of finding work. Training includes language, handicrafts, IT and computer skills, sewing and hairdressing and first aid.

Feeling of belonging

Ahmed, who was forced to flee Syria’s second city Aleppo, was studying to become a primary school teacher before he had to escape.

“From the border of Turkey, we came to Gaziantep and then Sanliurfa,” he said. “I registered with the Turkish Red Crescent Community Center after it was recommended to me by a friend.

“It is fantastic - I am now attending sewing and English courses and I finally feel happy to be here.”

The facilities foster a feeling of support and belonging for families who felt isolated when they arrived in a new country having left their home, friends and relatives behind.

Sama, 30, from Hamas in Syria, fled with her children when one of her daughters was injured in an airstrike. She says joining the centre in Sanliurfa four months ago has been a huge support for her and her children.

“We had such hard times but thanks to some of my friends, I found out about the community centre and now I feel at home here,” she said.

“My daughters are so happy when we visit and I am learning the language – I’m now able to express myself in Turkish.”

Teams of dedicated Turkish Red Crescent volunteers and staff are also on hand to help people access medical services and make sure they are aware of their rights as a Syrian under the temporary protection of Turkey.

The needs of children are at the heart of the centres with playgroups and activities a major part of helping young people cope with their situation.

Keen student Reyyan fled Aleppo with her parents three months ago and was devastated to leave learning behind. Now, the 14-year-old is taking Turkish lessons and has also become a community centre volunteer.

“I love helping children and playing with them. I knew a little bit Turkish before but learned much more here. My parents are also coming to the Turkish language course and I feel really positive.”

Carrying out health assessments for youngsters as well as providing nutritional information and advice for parents are also elements of the community centres’ work.  

The Turkish Red Crescent is planning to expand its work with Syrians living in urban areas by opening a further 12 centres by the end of 2017.