Christmas is a time of year when we are particularly mindful of those less fortunate than ourselves. Last week at our carol services we took an offering to support the work of two charities that are focused upon helping refugees. All the money raised will go towards Refugee Support Network’s work with unaccompanied teenage refugees in London and a CRY (Care and Relief for the Young) supported project working with Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Hannah Joy, a member of ChristChurch, has been working with refugees in Turkey for the last few months and has sent us this update.
Humanitarian Relief Work with Syrian Refugees in Turkey
The United Nations has estimated that around 3 million Syrian refugees currently reside within Turkey. Displaced by the terrible conflict these people have lost their homes, possessions, communities, jobs and school places, as well as many having lost friends and family members.
Although there are refugee camps in the south of Turkey, which provide people with all of their basic needs, I have spoken with many people in the area that I live in who have described the desperate situation of these camps and the reasons why it’s impossible to stay in them. For instance, one woman told me that the camps are so close to the conflict they could still hear explosions and her children remained terrified. Another Syrian Kurdish family told me about how they experienced persecution in the camps and that it was too dangerous for them to live there, especially for the women.
For these reasons and many others, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are settling throughout Turkey, trying to establish themselves despite very limited support from the authorities. This is where the ministry that I’m part of gets involved – it is our aim to build meaningful relationships with people, in addition to providing them with necessary resources such as: wood burners, blankets, shoes, warm clothes, food, medicine, toys and school materials. We also use art making as a way to respond to individuals’ psychological needs.
We are currently supporting around 100 families living in the most desperate conditions; however this number grows every time we go out as we are always introduced to new arrivals. Many people live in shelters made out of waste materials and others live in very poor standard accommodation, often without electricity, gas and running water. It is common for us to discover between two and eight families living in one building, with up to nine children per family.
Unfortunately many of these children do not attend school as their parents worry that they’d be bullied. Furthermore in the neediest families, the children are required to beg or clean shoes in the centre of town to help support the other family members instead of attending school. Nevertheless, we are currently considering ways to help people support themselves, for instance buying people chickens, which we hope will decrease the need for children to work and make our relief work more sustainable and empowering.
Seeing little children who’ve been ripped out of normality in Syria and forced to beg barefoot in a foreign land, it is perhaps easy to question God’s power or love. Nevertheless, I believe that God is moving in here in Turkey.
I believe it is necessary for us to change our perspective; no longer viewing these people as victims but as individuals cherished by their heavenly Father, who has called them to a new place for a particular purpose.
I pray that whilst we deliver food packages and blankets, we as vessels of the Holy Spirit will be imparting some of Jesus’ love; something that truly gives life and sustains us.
I know that although these people have been displaced from their homes, they are still firmly placed in God’s hands.
If you would like to give to our Christmas Offering, the easiest way is via an online transfer. Just add SURNAME CHRISTMAS as a reference.