2017 Project Focus: Refugee Education in Istanbul, Turkey

Much has been reported about the refugee crisis around the world. Last year, Somebody’s Mama partnered with One Million Thumbprints to help South Sudanese refugees and displaced persons start agribusinesses to support their families. Later that year, we partnered with Preemptive Love Coalition to help Iraqi women start soap businesses. 

Since then, the refugee crisis has worsened exponentially. According to the most recent numbers from the United Nations Refugee Agency, close to 66 million people are living as refugees or as internally displaced persons. Over 10 million of those people were forced from their homes in 2016 alone.

Because of ongoing conflict since 2011, Syria is the largest source of refugees. 12 million people, roughly 1/2 of the country’s population, have fled to neighboring countries and Europe or resettled somewhere in IDP camps within Syria. Shockingly, over half of Syrian refugees are children, a disproportionate number since children make up 1/3 of the world’s population.

The vast majority of refugees are settling in low and middle income countries. The largest host of refugees is Turkey where 3 million people have resettled.

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Let us introduce you to our newest project partner: One Refugee Child. When we first learned about ORC, we immediately felt a kindred connection as an organization. ORC is an all-volunteer, female-led non-profit that sees the benefits of empowering people through education. Our friends at ORC are making a huge impact with limited resources and doing so in a way that promotes dignity and hope among the people they serve.

This fall, we will be partnering with One Refugee Child to support refugee schools in Turkey through Project Bright Future. ORC has identified and vetted privately-run schools for Syrian children living in Turkey. At this time, these schools are the best option for educating kids who are dealing with the challenges of language barriers, war trauma, cultural differences, and overall acceptance in a new land.

We have committed to providing the books needed to start libraries in 15 schools across Istanbul. The book bundles are purchased from Turkish booksellers, which stimulates the economy of a developing nation, and include books in Arabic, Turkish, and English. Each set of books is geared toward children aged 6-14.

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Here’s what that looks like by the numbers:

$700 buys 150 books to fill the shelves in one library

$235 buys 50 books in one language—either Arabic, Turkish, or English

$15 buys one book in each language

$5 covers the cost of one book

Because we want to outfit 15 schools, Somebody’s Mama will be raising $10,500. Each school has approximately 300 students, which means 4,500 children will benefit from these books.

Both statistically and anecdotally, we understand that education is the key to lifting people out of poverty. There is a place for immediate relief in crisis, but we must move toward development even in these challenging spaces, or no one will benefit in the long run. 

The perseverance and strength it takes to escape the unfathomable violence of war and start a new life in a foreign land is heroic. Syrian families living in Istanbul want the same things we want for our children—opportunities to grow and learn and be productive citizens of the world.

Recently, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said, “We must ensure that refugees are included not just as beneficiaries but as real actors” in remaking their lives. People who have lived through the horrors of war are not feeble or looking for a hand out. They are resourceful and driven, and we have the opportunity to play a small part in helping them succeed.

As always, your donations are tax-deductible and 100% will go directly to purchasing books because our board covers all administrative costs. 

Thank you, One Refugee Child, for allowing us to be a part of your work. Now let’s buy some books!


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