The recent photo of three year old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach in Bodrum has provoked a storm of emotion and galvanised people around the world into providing help for Syrians who have been forced to flee their country. For those of us living in Turkey and the Greek Islands, we know he is not the first child or person to die trying to cross to Europe, and nor will he be the last. Reports of hazardous boats packed with too many people capsizing resulting in the death of those on board, have been in the news every week for almost the last year. Over the last few years more and more Syrians have been coming to Istanbul and other Turkish city centres, seeking refuge, so it’s more important than ever to know to help Syrian refugees in Turkey.
To date 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced and another 4 million have fled to neighbouring countries*. Nearly 2 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. Living in Istanbul, with three Syrian refugee families on my street, I am able to give directly. 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 Syrian refugees in Turkey.
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 ring before you take your contributions to them.
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. 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.
Bodrum Humanity (formerly Care Packages for Syrian Refugees)
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. Recently they decided to register as an official charity and have 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. As of mid October 2015 their new website has been under construction but they can still be contacted through their FB page.
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. Thomas Cook Airlines Northern Europe from Stockholm and Copenhagen are already doing this, even picking up the donations from the airport. Even 5kg worth of clothes can make a big difference.
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
*figures taken from https://www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria, viewed on 13.9.15
** http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php, viewed on 13.9.15