The photo of three year old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach in Bodrum, Turkey, in 2015, provoked a storm of emotion and galvanised people around the world into providing help for Syrians who had been forced to flee their country. However, those of us who lived and are still living in Turkey and the Greek Islands know he was not the first child or person to die trying to cross to Europe, and nor will he be the last. Two years later the war in Syria is still ongoing, and Syrians and other displaced people continue to come to Istanbul and other Turkish city centres, seeking refuge. Consquently it’s more important than ever to know to help Syrian refugees living in Istanbul and Turkey.
More than 6 million Syrians are internally displaced and of the millions who have left the country, more than 3 million of those are in Turkey. The sheer number of people is overwhelming, and I know many people feel helpless in the face of such need. It’s hard to know who to help first, where to send money and goods, and whether in fact it will make a difference. I believe even the smallest contribution counts. When I lived in Istanbul, with three Syrian refugee families on my street, I was able to give personally. I think it’s important that my money and other contributions go directly to those in need, so if you feel the same, here are some organisations you can contact to learn how to help displaced Syrian and others in need in Turkey.
Small Projects in Istanbul helps mainly Syrian adults and children. Through language lessons, theatre and other activities they hope to enable the refugees to create a better future with the skills to improve their lives. You can read more about them in this article I wrote. They accept cash donations through a secure link on their website.
Ad.dar (“home” in Arabic) is an all-volunteer, non-political, non-religious, multi-cultural community initiative established for Syrian and Syrian-Palestinian refugees living in Istanbul. Ad Dar’s international volunteers (from Syria, Turkey, United States, Germany, Canada and more) organize activities and classes, as well as various forms of practical, social, and emotional assistance for children, families, and youths. They accept cash donations through a secure link on their website.
The Hobbit House was set up in Balat to help kids from disadvantaged families (Turkish and non-Turkish alike) gain control over their futures by enabling the children themselves to determine what help they need. They are always happy to accept donations of food, clothes and toys. You can read more about them in this recent Guardian article.
As well as helping refugees acquire documentation, Caritas accepts clean second hand clothes, bedding, shoes etc. in good condition. They can accept small kitchen items, such as plates, knives, forks, pots, pans etc. Unfortunately they have no storage facilities or van, so they cannot accept furniture. The volunteers come from a variety of countries and most of them speak English. They have set hours for accepting donations so phone before you take your contributions to them.
This community project based on the Bodrum peninsula in south west Turkey where many Syrians try to cross the sea to Greece, is supported by local Turkish people, ex-pats and tourists. They are non-political and have been helping Syrian refugees in Bodrum and in refugee camps across Turkey. After registering as an official charity they changed their mission statement to include a wider group of people in need. Before you contribute check with them as to what they need, as demand for particular items changes regularly.
Halkların Köprüsü (The Bridges of Peoples) is based in Izmir where many Syrians also try to cross the sea to Greece, and works to provide places for refugees to stay. You will require some Turkish to use their website, however their current list states they need nappies, sanitary napkins, formula, milk, water and hygiene items, among other things. You can contact them directly in Izmir (address listed under Iletişim tab) or send money to their account (details listed under Aidat-Bağış için tab). If you need help with translating information on their site please contact me. I’ll be happy to help you.
If you’re travelling to Turkey soon and want to bring over clean used clothes, toys, or educational materials to donate, ring your airline. Ask whether they’ll increase your luggage allowance for a charitable cause. If you’re planning to buy new items to bring over, remember that your $5, €5 or £5 pounds will buy a lot more in Turkey.
Photo taken from Associated Press article http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/abbott-government-agrees-to-resettle-12000-syrian-refugees-in-australia-20150909-gjibqz.html