Helping Refugee Children Hip Hop out of this Crisis!
September of 2015 marked the month of the photo taken at a Turkish beach that the world will never be able to forget. Especially those of us who are parents or care givers of toddlers… whenever we dress our muffins in their little blue pants, red t-shirts and their cute velcro tennis shoes… that photo will re-appear in our head. That same month also marked the conception of a brand new project by our Bridge to Turkiye Fund (BTF), a U.S. based charitable organization. We named our campaign: “Let’s Rise for the Syrian Refugee Children. Don’t let them be the lost generation”. Turkey currently hosts more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, and more than half of this population is children. More than 80% of the refugees live outside the refugee camps distributed in major cities and border towns in difficult situations. Most school age refugee kids don’t attend school, vast majority of these children have been away from schools for over 5 years since the beginning of this humanitarian crisis in 2011.
Inspired by the prominent Turkish poet Behcet Necatigil who says “if you are helpless, “You” are the solution & hope” BTF has raised to improve the lives of these children by this major campaign to support the education and well-being of refugee children as well as to empower their mothers. We raised over $50,000 in grassroots donations from generous donors in the U.S, and received an award for $50,000 from Global Giving to implement additional education programs for the refugee children.
We launched 5 projects so far in the months of January through March: (1) We delivered 1,000 school bags with supplies to refugee kids in several cities; (2) We sent 1,500 children’s books in Arabic, and 1,500 in Turkish to Syrian schools in Istanbul; (3) We are currently sponsoring 100 refugee kids to receive education at a community center in a border town; (4) We are funding 20 refugee moms to knit hats and scarves as a way to help themselves and distribute these goods to underprivileged children all over Turkey; and (5) We are having hip hop classes with the refugee kids while their moms receive Turkish language classes. That’s right! We are helping them hip hop out of this humanitarian crisis! You can find out our impact more at: http://simplebooklet.com/syrianrefugeechildren.
Our “Hip-Hop” project was undertaken by Sosyal Kültürel Yaşamı Geliştirme Derneği (SKYGD, Association for the Development of Social and Cultural Life) in collaboration with the Human Resource Foundation in Turkey. The core of this project addresses an important need: Refugee moms, mostly single moms with several children, need a safe social place to bring their children to interact and engage in learning through play, art, music and dance while they themselves learn Turkish language to integrate into a new culture and society, to improve their communication with the locals, and to find and maintain jobs.
Hip hop helps the kids in many different ways. Kids need social activities to improve self-confidence and to have fun to get back on their feet. Hip hop allows them to express themselves freely, giving them a healthy way of releasing energy. Hip hop is being a child again with so much FUN!
Our program with SKYGD started in March 2016. The Human Resource Foundation provides the space at its community center in Esenler, Istanbul. We have had 4 wonderful active weeks so far. Akın, our hip hop trainer, has facilitated various activities: warm-up exercises, name game (to learn each other’s name), break dance, relaxation through quick meditation exercises, and dreaming games. On one session, a Syrian refugee hip hop dancer joined the kids schedule to support the workshops, his participation has truly encouraged the children to get in the game!
Let’s move forward, and keep the spirits up! Let’s continue to show our solidarity for the refugee children.
To help support any of the ongoing or upcoming BTF projects for Syrian refugee children in Turkey, please consider donating at:
Bridge to Türkiye Fund was established in 2003 by Turkish Americans driven to make a difference, to improve life and to cultivate common good. BTF’s commitment to these ideals stems from our basic desire to give back to our native land for the many opportunities we have gained from her. By supporting BTF, you too can share in this commitment and help us strengthen our community based development projects in Turkey.