Kids Activities in Tizaya Camp
Leading a treasure hunt, with all the children in the village
Playing with Bubbles In Tizaya Camp
Pictured with Ala Hamdan to my right, and young girls Rozan and Wared
Onsur Syria Offices in Gaziantep, Turkey
In August of 2017, @OnsurSyria kindly offered me the opportunity to volunteer in the Tizaya Refugee Camp, situated in the outskirts of Hatay, Turkey at the borders of Syria, with the intention of promoting the campaign online to raise funds and awareness.
Not having done much research before traveling, I pictured that the camp would consist of U.N symboled tents, with care packages and employees in special vests throughout. As our van pulled up to a dirt road in a field with the team of volunteers, a huge crowd of children ran up. The young girls, ages four to eight, were so excited to bring us out of the van and into visiting their makeshift homes, and for us keep them company for the week. I was shocked to know that we had arrived to our destination-- it was a farm, with cows, chickens, and goats, surrounded by makeshift homes, made of cement walls, and aluminum roofs. The ground was a mix of grass, rocks and mud, filled with trash, broken glass, and pretty much anything unsafe for the dozens of barefoot children living in this neighborhood. We quickly learned that this had been the living condition for five years, with little care and maintenance by the residents, due to their high hopes of returning to their homes in Syria any day now.
With the few girls in my group, we resided in a trailer home, sharing a small bedroom that once belonged to a refugee family (who had head back to Syria a few days before our trip). I was super prepared for this trip, bringing along facial and body wipes, hand sanitizer, snacks, water-- you name it. As much as this sounds livable, even then, I was living in an extreme luxury that most people in the village did not have, and felt quite guilty. Of course, I shared all my products with the refugee girls living nearby and had them pick through whatever they liked from my suitcase of clothes and beauty products. I felt disheartened that I had not known earlier, and brought more luggage filled with these everyday products that brought them so much joy.
When thinking about a refugee camp, it is easy to imagine a closed off camp with constant security and resources. But the reality was, these people had come by foot across the mountains bordering Syria and Turkey, and settled in this location. Not all refugee camps are as well known and publicized, making it harder for them to receive donations and resources. One of the things I really appreciate about @onsursyria is that they continue to bring a majority of the same people each time they make a 3 day trip to this camp. From the girl and boy scouts officers, to the photographers, the children remember the same faces and look forward to seeing them again. One of the main ways Onsur Syria helped was by bringing in more livestock with the donations in order to build a more sustainable lifestyle--with eggs, milk, cheeses and more coming from the animals. I know that I will return in the next opportunity I have, and that the team leaders around me are doing an amazing job at continuing to bring joy into this community, through your contributions.
As simple as it sounds, this was their story, and this was my experience in an unfamiliar place only heard of in the news for most of my life. This trip made me realize that the world is so much smaller than it seems, and opened my eyes to the impact of humanitarian work in the smallest ways. While my main duty at the camp was to take part in media projects to raise funds, I participated in as many ways as I could in social projects-- whether it be leading a group of kids on a treasure hunt, preparing dinner and dishes for the refugees, or having tea with the women in the neighborhood and being welcomed into their homes, I felt our trip gave a sense of purpose not only to us but to them as well. They were so inviting and welcoming into their homes, and would even dispute over who got to invite which girl over to talk to them about their stories. Ultimately, everyone wants to be heard, and feel that they have a mark in this world. I only hope that they will be able to find this sense of peace and harmony in their lives after all the turmoil they have been through.
P.S. Inshallah, I do have plans to take part in a new humanitarian trip this spring-- and I'm excited to share more about that in the coming weeks if all goes as planned!