RAISING THE HOPES FOR SYRIANS: Turkish Red Crescent COMMUNITY CENTER PROJECT
Due to the 4-year-conflict in Syria, thousands of people lost their lives and thousands of them were injured, millions were displaced within their country or had to flee to neighboring countries. More than 4 million Syrians are currently living in neighboring countries and thousands of them are now trying to cross the border of Europe. The number of registered Syrian people in Turkey is over 1.9 million; with around 258.000 people living in the camps under temporary protection. Turkish Red Crescent, as an auxiliary to the public authorities, is providing food and psycho-social support in the camps and contributing to the Turkish Government’s relief activities for Syrian people.
Apart from meeting the needs of people living in the camps, Turkish Red Crescent has broadened relief activities also to meet the needs of Syrian people living in the cities as the needs and vulnerability of Syrians living in urban areas are increasing. Moreover, the population of Syrian people living in the cities is bigger and it is important to engage in activities such as psycho-social support and orientation program for Syrian people.
From this point of view, Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) initiated the Community Center Project in urban areas to provide psycho-social support, vocational trainings and referral services to Syrian people under temporary protection. First community center of TRC has been established in Sanliurfa on 20 January 2015 within the scope of the appeal of Turkish Red Crescent that was launched in November 9, 2012 by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Before community centers start to operate in a certain region, TRC staff hold consultation meetings with the local partners, UN organizations and related public institutions. After meetings and discussions with other stakeholders, field researches take place to identify the essential needs of the Syrian population living in that area and focus group meetings have been organized by different age groups among beneficiaries. Sanliurfa has been chosen to be the pilot city for Community Center Project as the number of Syrians living off the camps is quite high and access to service off the camps is limited in Sanliurfa .
The second Community Center in Istanbul, has started to operate following Sanliurfa Community Center on August 26, 2015 and continues holding its activities since then. Moreover, TRC is planning to open 2 more community centers in other cities where services for Syrians is limited until the end of 2015.
The Community Center Project aims to provide services mainly for women and children as they are the most vulnerable part of the population in crisis and disasters although there are activities also for male adults in community centers.
Within the scope of Community Center Project, there are seven main activities;
– Psycho-social Support Services: Psycho-social first aid, referral services for clinical cases, group therapies, provision of child friendly space for children at the age group of 4-18.
– Referral Services: Legal referral services, other referral services.
– Training programs and remedial education activities: Vocational trainings, language classes, seminars (hygienic promotion, protection, first aid etc.)
– Health and Nutrition: Basic physical inspection for children, assessment for children’s malnutrition, dissemination of information among mothers for nutritional care in children.
– Social Activities: cultural expeditions in the city, harmonization activities with the host community.
– Advocacy Activities: Assessment of the problems and the needs of Syrians at the local level, supporting, complementing the services of the government authorities, increasing and strengthening the cooperation mechanism among the institutions, NGO’s and INGO’s, increasing awareness.
– Volunteer Activities: Encouraging the participation of Syrian and host communities to the activities of the Community Center.
Child Friendly Space in community centers provides psycho-social support to children who fled from the conflict in their countries. Child Friendly Space with the support of UNICEF, language and craft courses in cooperation with provincial Directorate of National Education and school activities are the main activities of children program of Community Center Project.
Within the concept of adult program; language classes, vocational trainings, seminars, social and cultural events are being organized for adults in the centers. Adults participate in vocational trainings such as tailoring, hand-craft and computer courses in the centers. Syrians who attend those courses receive a certificate at the end of the courses so that they can use the certificates to be employed after legislation obstacles are overcome. Referral services are also provided in the community centers. Referral services include case studies and guidance, field researches for determination of the needs and for service evaluation, providing information about health, education, security, registration and legal services for Syrians who live in the villages and have no access to community center.
Considering the language classes provided in the community centers, beneficiaries’ lives are being made easier as the knowledge of the local language help them both in social life and access to the services. In this way, beneficiaries feel themselves more as a part of the local culture. As far as vocational courses in the centers are concerned, it is quite important for Syrians to improve their vocational skills and learn new activities because vocational training
has a potential for them to generate income, to contribute to economy of the host country and also to improve their psychosocial well-being. Beneficiaries are aware of the fact that it has much higher importance to have a talent rather than receive a one-time relief item as a support from the community centers. Moreover, Syrians can spend their time useful in a relaxing environment, socialize in a place where no one judges them and where their voices are heard.
Community Center Project has been running since the beginning of 2015 and it has already touched lives of thousands of Syrians in such a short time. TRC is aware that Syrians are more than just numbers and now part of the local host communities. Providing them psycho-social support and vocational training are not less important than providing food and shelter. Apart from her food and non-food items relief distribution, TRC wanted to distribute also hope and happiness for Syrians during their temporary stay in Turkey. TRC hopes that Community Center Project will raise awareness and become another model implementation in this respect so that we can show the true Turkish hospitality to those people who count on Turkey and Turkish people.