By Debbie Busler, Benedetta Balmaverde, Damla Çalık and Gurvinder Singh
“We need more red and the yellow is finished,” shouts out a young boy as a group of 20 children huddle around a Red Crescent volunteer. They are mixing paint to prepare for a psychosocial activity in the farming community of Torbali outside the coastal city of Izmir.
17-year-old volunteer Leen Ghannam leading the session is a Syrian refugee herself. “Kids are so glad when we come here. We are working to make them feel safe, empower them and help them make new friends” she says.
Children like them rarely have time to play. Boys and girls as young as eight have to work in the field to support their families.
In Torbali, Syrian refugees live in tents and work as seasonal agricultural labourers who stay a few months at a location before moving on. Many of them work outside the formal system as they do not have identity cards that allow them to access essential services like healthcare and education.
Fatima Şahin, a Turkish Red Crescent psychologist explains: “The living conditions here are not healthy, and children attending school are rather the exception than the rule. We do everything to protect the kids who face so many risks.”
Child labour among refugees in farms or textile factories is a countrywide problem that Red Crescent child protection teams encounter way too often. In some cases, refugee girls and boys experience bullying from other children or teachers in school, which drives them away and leaves them with labour as their only option.
Red Crescent volunteers and staff reach out to child workers and their families with a range of humanitarian services – refer them to local authorities to access basic services and receive tents, vaccinations and clean water. They also sign them up for the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education program encouraging children to attend school and bring mobile child-friendly spaces to hard-to-reach locations.
Fatima believes that among all services, psychosocial support is probably the most important. “The impact is not always visible right away, but it appears inside the hearts. Changes in self-confidence, healing and resilience happen over time,” she emphasizes.
The Turkish Red Crescent Community Centers are supported by the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis. For more information, please visit: www.kizilaytoplummerkezleri.org