'My Happiness' Center: A safe harbor for happiness
Adnan's 9-year-old sister Nahed is one of the regulars at a UNICEF-supported Child Protection and Support Centre.
Nahed’s eyes sparkle as a smile spreads across her face. It’s obvious she is happy. She playfully nods when she is asked if she likes coming to UNICEF-supported “My Happiness” Child and Family Support Center in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.
“She comes here all the time,” her mother Hana Abdullah said. “She loves coming here, she would do anything to be here.” The room is warm and cozy, filled with tables, games, colorful cushions, drawings on the walls. About a dozen children are laughing and playing games such as jenga.
Nahed, 9, and all her friends are Syrian refugees that have fled a war that has flattened their cities and their homes, killed and maimed their friends and families and forced them to flee to Turkey. This room may be sparsely furnished and part of a much larger center run by the Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), an organization that assists refugees, but for Nahed and her friends it is a place where they can forget all they have seen and simply be children again. It is a place where she can feel safe.
“I love to draw and I especially draw Dora,” she says, referring to the popular animated character. Nahed wants to be like the joyful girl who explores the world with her backpack and her little monkey. But unlike Dora, her new world is unsettlingly unfamiliar.
Her family left Aleppo in 2015 after bomb shrapnel tore through her elder brother Adnan’s leg a year ago and severely injured him. Nahed remembers that her brother had insisted on going outside to eat ice cream. He was standing just outside the front door when Nahed heard the telltale whistle just before the explosion. It’s a detail that the whole family keeps on repeating.
“He was just eating ice-cream when the bomb exploded,”
her mother explains, her voice shaking nervously. “He never got to eat his ice-cream and instead he was injured.” The 15-year-old first received treatment in Aleppo during four months and underwent three unsuccessful surgeries. When Hana saw that her son was not recovering well, she decided to leave Aleppo and flee to Turkey with her three children. Her husband had already moved to Turkey a few weeks before in search of work.
Once in Ankara, they heard from relatives about the ASAM Center, founded with the financial support of European Union Syria Regional Trust Fund (Madad) and ASAM with the support of UNICEF. The center has been a great help for Adnan. It provided a translator to help the family navigate the Turkish hospital where Adnan was getting treatment. The teenager had to had two more surgeries. The center then bought him crutches, an essential part of his healing as he learned to walk again.
Leaving their country wasn’t easy for children. “They left behind their school, their home, their toys,” Hana explains. This is where the center also helps. Social workers not only provide physical well-being, but also psychosocial support for the children as well as Hana and educational activities. For many vulnerable families, this is a blessing. It is obvious that Nahed cares deeply for Adnan. Even before her mother has a chance, Nahed is quick to answer any questions about her brother’s surgery and treatment. His struggle to walk again has inspired her. “I want to become a doctor and help people,” she says.
Her first step is exploring all the new things at the center. She is learning to dream again.
*All names have been changed to protect identity. The image is used with the written consent of the family.
About European Union Facility for Refugees in Turkey
The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey was designed to ensure a more coherent, fast and integrated EU response to the Syria crisis by merging various EU financial instruments and contributions from member states into one single flexible and quick mechanism with a target volume of €1 billion. The Fund is used primarily to address the longer-term needs of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, and to support the host communities and their governments.
UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
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