The Turkish province of Hatay has been an important sanctuary for many of the nearly 5 million Syrian refugees fleeing the violence of the civil war over the past six years. It is also home to Hayata Destek, known in English as Support to Life.
This charity has been making the lives of desperate refugees in Turkey better since 2012. With three community centres in Hatay, Şanlıurfa and Istanbul, their work ranges from providing basic humanitarian assistance in the immediate aftermath of disasters, through day-to-day support for refugees and their children, to bigger picture stuff, which they hope will make the authorities better prepared in future to respond to this kind of emergency.
Intrepid Travel backs Support to Life by matching all donations made to the charity through The Intrepid Foundation.
Hanzade Germiyanoğlu, the charity’s Advocacy and Quality Program Manager, told us how Support to Life had helped change the lives of two people in particular. Their names have been changed.
When six-year-old Sidar came to Support to Life House for the first time, his family said they were worried he might have autism as he had stopped interacting with his surroundings all together. Support to Life trainers introduced the boy to a special kindergarten class. First, they earned Sidar’s trust by talking to him and inviting him to join in with games, even though he didn’t at first respond. One day he joined one of these games. Today he is playing with his peers, talking, laughing and will begin school next year.
Sara is a 30-year-old mother-of-three who lost her husband in the war. Heavily traumatised, she first settled in a Turkish camp with her children and her mother. But her psychological state deteriorated so they decided to leave. Life outside the camp is much harder. They had to sleep in a park in Şanlıurfa for a while. When they got in contact with Support to Life, their most urgent need was to find shelter. The charity assisted them through their special needs fund and found a flat for them, covering half a year’s rent. They helped Sara see a doctor and get the medication needed for her treatment. During these six months her health improved and she found a job. Support to Life also registered her oldest child, who was 8, in school and provided school materials.
Hanzade says that Syrian families without exception talk about how much they long for their homeland. They talk about how they want to go back home once the war is over. But for the moment, the main problem they consistently face is simply securing a steady income because of the language barrier and limited availability of jobs.
Hanzade warns that the main challenge over the coming year could be a decrease in funding as international humanitarian organisations re-allocate funds.
What can travellers do to help?
Donate money! Intrepid covers all admin costs so that 100 per cent of your donation goes to Support To Life. Intrepid will also match all donations dollar for dollar.