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In January and February the weather was cold and the children of the camp were all barefoot and had no jackets. Only me (Arianna) and Luca made it to the camp this time, but we managed to buy and distribute 2 tracks full of boots and jackets to more than 1000 children. The organisation of the distribution is never easy, but this time we have been able to hand out boots and clothes of the right size to every child, thanks to the support of many people in the camp.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford distributing food packs to the 800 families of the camp: money is never enough and we can only rely on the spontaneous contributions from the donors. Still we were able to give milk to malnourished children and vouchers to the orphans. These young children live in very harsh conditions, they are alone in the camp and the older ones already work in the fields nearby for a few euros per day.

The contributions from the generous donors help children to cover their basic needs, but we strongly believe in the importance of education as the most important instrument we can offer them to change their life. SSCH relies on the school tent (Rainbow Tent) since it is the only place where children can spend a few peaceful hours, learning how to write, read and count. The management of the tent activities is not easy because the kids don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to games and instruction, even though this should be their everyday life. Still they are really willing to learn and play and have a break from a life made of hard work and sacrifice. Life has deprived them of their childhood, but in the tent they can live a moment of peace and light, and we are very proud of that.

Just a few drops in an ocean of grief and indifference.

 

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Situation

Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees who fled from their country at the beginning of the war. According to UNCHR, 3.654.173 million refugees have registered at the Turkish government, while a vast amount of people live in the unstructured camps spread across the country. The region of Adana hosts one of those camps in the area of Tuzla, where SSCH is present since 2013. In that area live around 500 families, with 1000 children suffering malnutrition and infections due to the dirty water they have to drink. Hygienic conditions are terrible, so viruses bacteria and other kind of diseases easily spread across the camp.

People living in the area work in the fields from 7 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, for something like 2 euros per day. This wage is not even enough to buy a little bit of the food they contribute to grow every day. Furthermore the camp is far away from the nearest town (more than an hour by car) so they don’t have access to any service or basic form of assistance. Child labour is ordinary, since it is the only way for children to get food, but it implies that children are cut out of the educational system.

Since 2013 SSCH provide food packs, milk powder when necessary, blankets, winter clothes and medical aid. The situation is worsening as to malnutrition and education, still we wanted to give something from our hearts, a little oasis of colour, a place to cure the soul ….

Objectives and duration

The objective of the association is to build a School Tent in order to provide educational services that children cannot find in the camp. The majority of children is unschooled and illiterate, therefore the classes cover all basic education, in order to teach them how to read, write and count.

Aside the school project, SSCH aims to keep fighting against malnutrition. We registered 4 serious cases risking death: three new born children and a three years old girl. One of the new born babies is paralysed and is fed artificially.

Besides SSCH want to take care of 100 registered orphans. They are the most vulnerable. The area where the camp is situated is not safe: when children go to work in the camps, they face violence and sometimes kidnapping. The orphans are more vulnerable than the other children since they are not protected by any adult. SSCH wants to give them food so that they are not obliged to work in the fields and put themselves in danger. The project is intended to run for the next two years. Periodic reports will be written each month.

There are 110 orphans divided into 26 groups. The priority is to keep siblings together. In September 2019 we started a project of “distance aid”, connecting children with Italian donors who give them the basic food they need. The donors give 40-50 euros per month for each group of orphans. This aid is important, but it is not enough. We calculated that each group should spend approximately 110 euros in food, since most of the children suffer from malnutrition or pathological problems.

Monitoring

Our volunteers travel to Turkey each month. The monitoring activities are made of written reports and pictures in cooperation with the local persons at the camp and the teacher of the school tent.

 

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I write about this mission only three months after. I don’t know if this is good or not.

Emotions settle down and change, but never leave you.

It’s six years now that I (Arianna) go back and forth to the camps and sometimes I don’t know which direction to take in my life. Still I keep on going there. If I can change the destiny of just one of the children I meet, then it’s worth it. My dream is to give hope to these kids whose future have been taken away.

 

This is a very busy mission. We distribute food packs and visit malnourished children. Lorenzo, the doctor, spends the entire day visiting, checking the progresses of the malnourished kids and distributing milk and medicines to those in need. Pietro is also with us at the camp. He is a volunteer who launched a fundraising for us and then decided to come and help. Together with the doctor, they start creating a database of medical records that will be very helpful in the future missions. Thanks to this archive it will be a lot easier, for the three alternating doctors, to follow each patient. It’s an immense job, given the extreme working conditions of the camp.

In the meanwhile, Luca and Andrea build the school tent and the teacher (the interpreter who always supports us) starts counting the future scholars.

It’s going to be a small and modest school: there are many children and they have different ages and characteristics, but basically we’ll try to teach them how to read, write and count. Most of all, we want to create a peaceful and colorful oasis for children who have seen nothing but hard work in the fields.

The school opening is one of the best moments I have ever lived: pure joy and euphoria, but also order and self-control.  I hope we will always have the resources to keep this school running.

While some children have their first informal lesson, we pass on to distribute the checks to the orphans. Andrea takes pictures of each child or group and we’ll send them to the Italian donors. Sharing the children’s stories with the people supporting from Italy is very touching.

We finish our work late in the evening when it’s already dark. Some of the children are already asleep, others are still awake because they are happy to stay with us.

We identify a small shop where we make a deal: we give them money for each Voucher and children can go there and buy what they need. It works, but it’s an agreement based on trust.

Staying in the camp is both fulfilling and emptying. At the end of the day you are tired but you still don’t want to leave.

The next day we are back in the car directed to Kilis, where we stay as usual at Majad (The Sons of War). When we give the checks to the refugee families, the atmosphere is full of love and sorrow for the destiny of those people, especially children.  We would like to do a lot more, but at least we give them money to eat, so children are not forced to work and can go back to school.

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The mission in August is very particular and “full”. We have more time to think and go deep. This time Lidia is our only volunteer and she goes to the camp together with a friend of her. For an entire week they stay close to the border hosted by Majad (The Sons of War), who help us with our project. They are running activities for the university, but they spend most of their time with the families. So while delivering the checks, they stay with the refugees and listen to their stories.

They have come back very tired but full of rediscovered humanity. The families have felt really close to them and Italian donors have got to know a lot more about the life of the people they support.

At the end of the mission Lidia goes to the camp for one day to check Tamer (the baby who suffers from cerebral palsy and is fed with a tube in his stomach)  and bring milk to the other malnourished babies identified in the previous mission.

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This mission is particularly important for us: we will not only provide medical aid and food packs, but we will also try to census all the children.

In the camp there are more than a thousand children. More than a hundred are orphans of one or both parents. We want to census the orphans first, in order to start a project of distance support as soon as possible. We will identify an Italian donor for every orphan or a group of orphan siblings.

 

When we land the heat is terrible, even at night. Our thoughts immediately go to the children working 10 hours a day in the fields and living in the camp in these harsh conditions.

We start the mission checking that the 500 food packs are ready and we find out that they’ll  be ready the next morning.

This time Anna, a doctor, is travelling with us. We received most of the medicines and milk powder by Italian donors and we buy some more in the morning. After that, we follow the vans carrying the food packs to the camp.

The doctor spends the whole day visiting children under extreme temperatures.

We come across malnourished newborns and we give them milk. We soon realize that we need to buy more milk, since we don’t have enough. We meet a baby in serious conditions: due to an infection, he suffers from cerebral palsy and is fed with a tube in his stomach. We give the child some multivitamin and protein milk, but next time we will provide this child with the specific food he needs. The doctor, Anna, finds out the baby has another infection. She gives him an antibiotic and teaches the mother how to continue the cure.

 

Food distribution is always a moment that brings confusion, but the two chiefs of the camp are making a very good job and it’s a lot easier now that they have the list of the families.

We pass on to the children census . We count them and take pictures so that they can be associated to a donor. This is a very tough job (there are many children and a lot of confusion) but we manage to get through it.

The interpreter is mostly needed to assist the doctor, but he tries to give a hand to all of us.

In the evening we are exhausted but happy because we counted all the orphans and we can start the adoptions once we are back home.

 

The morning after we move to Kilis, close the border and 4 hours by car from the camp. In Kilis we meet the families we started to support from Italy. Majad from the association “The Sons of War” is our contact person and he always gives us a place to sleep when we are there.  His team support us when we’re in Kilis and when we’re in Italy. We personally deliver the checks to the families, but if sometimes (very seldom) we can’t, they do it for us.

Majad also runs a small laboratory where Syrian women make soap and small objects in order to earn some money and escape poverty. We always buy some products  and bring them back to Italy as gadgets. The three of us (Arianna, Andrea e Anna) have worked closely together, without any complaint or misunderstanding. Days are long and busy, and what you see often compromise your balance, but things are a lot easier when you are a team and share the same values and beliefs.

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In May 2019 we started supporting 21 families who live in Kilis, close to the Turkish/Syrian border. They have been selected amongst the most vulnerable and helpless. The families are usually made of orphans, invalid parents or disabled children, and they can barely survive.

The project is based on the support of Italian donors who give an amount of money every month. The money is then converted into a Voucher that we deliver directly to the families. This way we can develop an ongoing relationship between our organisation, the donors and the Syrian families.

We are very proud and thankful for the generosity and trust that many people give us.

 

 

 

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The weather is warm when we leave Italy. When we arrive in Turkey it is a lot warmer.

This is positive, since it means that children have come through another winter in rough conditions. The sixth since we met them.

 

In Adana, every evening, we meet the interpreter who supports us in all our missions. He helps us to negotiate the cost and the preparation of packages and he looks for the van and the drivers that take us around. It’s not easy to organize the whole mission from Italy. We send emails, messages and we make phone calls and everything that will accelerate all the activities once we get there.  Nevertheless, it is very likely we incur in unexpected events, due to the language and the places where we go. The whole area is certainly not easy to travel. Security on the move and organization always come first.

This time we travel without a doctor and this will be a problem at the camp, still we couldn’t find anyone who could substitute the doctor that usually comes with us.

 

After some twists and unexpected events, we finally make it to the camp (it’s actually two camps in one area), where we distribute almost 500 food packs. The distribution becomes more and more organized each time, as we follow a list of families made within the camp itself from our contact persons.

The weather is hot. When we arrive at the camp, less children than usual are waiting for us since they are working in the surrounding cultivated fields. They are exploited for few euros a week. In the late afternoon they come back tired but always smiling, and we can spend some time with them.

Spending time with those children is heartbreaking but still deeply fulfilling. You feel helpless but alive. You learn how to go ahead, no matter what difficulties you have to overcome.

 

The morning after we move close to the border and deliver the checks to the 22 families we support.

We have one and a half day. It might appear to be a lot of time but actually it’s not, since we sit down and talk with each family. We try to be close to them so that it’s not only financial help they get from Italian families, but also support and understanding. I (Arianna) write down many things because I like bringing the news and the stories back home to the people that are helping these children and their families. I try to build an ongoing exchange in order to create a connection.

The conditions of the refugees are always though, almost desperate, from several years.

 

During the time we spend in Turkey or at the border with Syria, our contact of the Iraqi Red Cross distribute 300 food packs in the Barika camp, the same camp we went to give food and medical aid in February.

 

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