There is no such thing as impossible

A Syrian refugee in Turkey finds a home and a purpose

By Keith S. Collins
Zeynep at her home in Istanbul, Turkey.
UNICEF/UN0261212/Gafic

01 December 2018

When the bombs began falling on their neighbours’ homes in Aleppo, Syria, 13-year-old Zeynep Sido and her family had to make a split-second decision.

“We left without even closing the door and looking behind us, in order to save our lives,” says Aisha, Zeynep’s mother.

They began an arduous journey to safety – more than a thousand kilometres – which would eventually take them to Istanbul. For Zeynep, who was 9 at the time, the trip was particularly challenging. Living with cerebral palsy, she has difficulty walking. Her bones are very fragile and any fall or fracture could cause irreversible damage.

When the family finally settled in Turkey, it was difficult to get Zeynep the support she needed. Her family had fled without her full medical records. What they had was in Arabic and they could not speak Turkish.

Four years later, however, Zeynep is thriving in a Turkish public school. She is also receiving specialised treatment for her condition. Zeynep benefits from the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education Programme (CCTE), which encouraged her family to keep her in school continuing her education.

Zeynep doing her homework.
UNICEF/UN0261211/Gafic
Zeynep doing her homework.
Zeynep at a physiotherapy session at the Bağcılar Social Centre before her school day begins, Istanbul, 17 October, 2018.
UNICEF/UN0261210/Gafic
Zeynep attends a physiotherapy session at the Bağcılar Social Centre before her school day begins.

“I love both my school and my friends,” says Zeynep, “My friends always help me with my walking.” Every morning before class, Zeynep visits Bağcılar Culture Centre for physiotherapy and sessions in the swimming pool.

“Zeynep has made remarkable progress since she first came here,” says Ayşe Daştan Aydın her sports coach at Bağcılar Cultural Centre. “Now she can walk better and we expect an advanced recovery as a result of her physiotherapy.”

Zeynep has learned Turkish and acts as a translator for her mother. Zeynep hopes to become a doctor one day. Aisha says her daughter is unstoppable. “One day, a friend brought us various books and told Zeynep she could choose any book she wanted,” Aisha recounts. “Zeynep picked the one named There is no such thing as impossible.”