ISTANBUL, TURKEY: WHY ARE WE HERE? by Zoë
As most of you know, I spent the month of Dec - Jan volunteering on Lesvos, Greece - meeting refugees fleeing in the night in dangerous rafts, and providing humanitarian emergency aid in the camps on the island. The experience and response of our community was life-changing, and when I came home I founded One Light Global. We now have an amazing team that I couldn't do this without!! But we got to wondering, if it costs so much to get to Lesvos, and is so dangerous -- who is left in Istanbul and how bad is it that they are risking their lives and their children's lives to get to the EU?? There are many small ngos now helping the war refugees in Greece, but is anyone providing aid in Turkey where they are coming from?
There are 3 million war refugees in Turkey, about 1 million in Istanbul alone! Upon researching, it turned out that in Istanbul almost no one was helping them, just other refugees and some kind hearted Turks.
Families have left their formerly normal lives in Syria to escape bombings and death threats and kidnapping, and fled to Turkey. Now, they are in a strange country and don't speak the language, have no money, can't get work/aren't allowed to work many jobs, and are living in mold covered, no hot water, no sanitation, slums, in dire poverty.
In many cases, the only hope to pay rent is to send the children to work. We see them everywhere - selling tissues, water bottles, begging. They also work in the factories - 12 hour days, 6 days per week, making shoes and clothing and other things. The factories won't hire the parents because they can't exploit them. If the parents refuse to let the children work, the whole family will be out on the street. One man begged us 10 times to find him a job so that his 12 year old son could stop working and go to school.
So One Light Global decided to help these kids by using donations to pay for their education since the families can't afford it. We believe the successful future of this generation, their integration into new cultures, and the welfare of their families and their children's families depends on education. Not to mention having a childhood - getting to play and learn and not just work. Hopefully one day this generation will return to and rebuild their own country. Surely they can't do this without education. We partnered with an incredible school, founded by a compassionate refugee -- that shares our core values of global peace and acceptance for all. We are paying tuitions so kids can attend and the school (which also gives medical care, much needed trauma counseling, and other services) can continue to operate and offer the incredible experience of real childhood to the many children who need it. We also have some other schools - including one exclusively for orphans that we are donating supplies to and hoping to partner with as well.
We are also establishing a Women's Center. The school generously offered us a space -- and we are using donations designated for women (including a HUGE collective donation from Awakening Women Institute -- thank you!!) in order to create a space for community, to provide Turkish and English lessons, and teach a trade -- sewing, so that they can learn the local language and provide for their families. We will also provide trauma counseling - as so many feel hopeless, depressed and overwhelmed because of all that they have been through and are facing daily. There will also be a small distribution center for food here for families of students in need.
Additionally, we are working with some amazing volunteers in Spain, England and the USA to get shipping containers of school supplies and aid for families shipped to Istanbul to give to the schools. We also hope to be able to provide some basic needs like diapers and baby bottles for the families here - from the containers.
There is so much to do!! Several people have asked me how they can help -- if you are so moved, there are several ways:
1. Sponsor a child's education! It is only $250 / year !! You will receive a photo and a little bit about the child. We understand $250 may be too much for you to donate at this time - donate whatever you can - every dollar counts and goes to education, the women's center, or emergency aid. You can choose! Or get a group together and sponsor a child. You will literally be changing a life!
2. Ship a container! If you would like to gather donations and ship a container - contact Sam firstname.lastname@example.org for all the details.
3. If you or someone you know works at a school and would like to create a sister school program with one of the schools here, so we can spread cultural awareness on both sides, let us know!
4. Volunteer - come join us! Talk to our volunteer coordinator Amy Ronn
5. Like our Page! Spread the word!! Raise Awareness! The goal is World Peace!
Thank you for being a light!! We couldn't do this without you!! Never doubt that you can make a difference! Today is always a good day to give. One Family. One World. One Light.
Infinite Love, Zoë
donate! onelightglobal.org/donate like us! www.fb.com/onelightglobal
All photos by the incredibly talented One Light photographer The Art of Stephany Moeller