The civil war in Syria began more than 4 years ago, causing millions to flee their homeland.
Over 2 million Syrian refugees ended up in Turkey, and although they get shelter and basic medical care from the Turkish government, education isn’t included. With over 66,000 Syrian refugee children wandering the streets – some becoming beggars, others child laborers – something had to be done.
Tzu Chi Foundation joined forces with Syrian teachers in Turkey and found a solution.
After much concerted effort, in 2015, they opened the 1st semi-public Syrian school on Turkish soil: The Turkish government provided the campuses, and Tzu Chi volunteers made scholarships for students available.
The name of the school – “Menahil” – means “oasis in the desert” in Arabic, and that’s what the school has become for more than 500 Syrian refugee children between the ages of 6 and 14, who now have shelter from the streets, and hope.
For some of these kids, who were A-students in Syria before they lost years of schooling, the opening of Menahil Primary and Secondary School was nothing short of a miracle. Finally, they can get the education they need to pursue their dreams for the future.
Recently, a team of 23 Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan travelled to Turkey to join local volunteers and distribute stationary at the school: For most refugee children, such items are a luxury when the cost of tuition can be an obstacle for their families to overcome.
Many Turkish students joined in to help Tzu Chi volunteers prepare the distribution, wanting to welcome the Syrian students and display their offer of friendship.
Apart from school supplies, the distribution also included Frisbees and balls! After all the traumatic experiences they’ve survived, refugee kids need to put the past behind them, and rediscover the joy of play once again.
And as a final gesture of love, Tzu Chi volunteers tied peace charms to the bags they would hand out – because peace is that heartfelt but elusive fantasy these children didn’t dare dream of, until now.