OUR LIFE BEFORE
We had a very good life in Syria. My husband who was a French teacher was going to work while I was tutoring pre-school age children and writing informative articles for older students about universities. My son Alaa was preparing to study at university and my daughter Kinde was studying English. It felt like this life we had was never going to change. There were no such signs.
But it did not happen that way. When war broke in Syria we started to look for a safe place because of the intense fear and anxiety we were in. First, we wanted to send the youngest member of our family, my son to Turkey to ensure his safety. Afterwards we decided to go as well. I remember our journey and how I had countless thoughts going on in my mind very well. That intense feeling, I could not name at the time was anxiety. I felt I was drowning in questions such as what was expecting us in a country whose language I did not speak, what kind of a life were we going to have, how could our children continue school and what kind of a future they were going to have, how were we going to provide for our family, what kind of people were we going to meet, and many other such questions. But since we could not travel back in time, we had to continue forward.
WHERE WILL WE GO?
When you leave everywhere and everything you know behind, familiar faces become more precious than ever. Those that arrive before you reassure with their existence and guide with their experience. That is why we initially came to Kahramanmaraş as suggested by our relatives but could not make it there and started to live in Gaziantep where my son had settled in. However, we could only stay there for about 10 months. Antep was a very pretty town but we could find no work opportunities there and had almost nothing. So desperately we decided to go back to Syria. But sometimes life thinks before you do and sustains what it finds fit for you: when my third child Muhammed was born we felt we had to embrace our new life here.
New life requires new plans and of course the courage to realize them. Maybe out of determination or out of luck, this time we opened a small shop in Şanlıurfa with one of my son’s friends and started to make a living. In the meantime, my daughter was supporting us with English and Korean translation works she found on the Internet. Truthfully, we did not get used to this life but we accepted it. We embraced this life that we built slowly.
Whatever happens in life, you consider your children before yourself. It is the children that determine your life. In this period, we very much wanted our daughter to complete her education. We learned that this could be possible in Istanbul or in Antalya but could not find the opportunity to go. Anxieties that grew with our baby Muhammed added on top of such worries. Precisely because of that I, who was still too afraid to leave home, decided to grow stronger to contribute to development of my children and present them the conditions I was dreaming about. I was going to end the self-imposed house arrest and go out, learn about my surrounding, make new friends and most importantly learn Turkish to get involved in life and set a good example for my children.
SUPPORT TO LIFE AND FEMALE FRIENDS
That is how I met with Support to Life. I learned about this association from my new friends and got enrolled in their Turkish classes. Our attentive and good-humored teacher made it easy for me to attend classes. Then I joined a psychosocial support session. I was still traumatized and trying to recover. The first session relieved me so much that I started to join sessions regularly. Every session was relieving me from the questions in my head and was making me feel stronger. I started to spend most of my time at Support to Life house. There I learned about the concept of social harmony, met with social harmony project team and got invited to women’s committee. The committee was formed of Turkish women and refugee women like myself. Purpose of the Project was to establish and strengthen harmony among us. And that was what happened. We learned a lot from and supported each other. Our origins did not matter. We were only women fighting with the difficulties of life and were together to encourage not just ourselves but also our peers. We were aware of our common worries and enjoyed strength as we grew stronger.
FOR OUR CHILDREN
Activity brings plenty. During our efforts at the women’s committee, one day I learned they needed volunteers at Fight Against Child Labor Project undertaken at Support to Life House and applied right away. They called me and wanted to make an interview. There we talked about my education, life, experiences, and child labor thus I was invited to take part in that Project team. I am a mother and I feel responsible for all children and not just for Kinde, Alaa, and Muhammed. I was thrilled from the idea of protecting all of them from risks in life and making an effort to give them the life they dream about. I received many trainings fort his Project I volunteered in. I thought about many issues including children’s rights and safety, negative effects of child labor, preventing early marriages, accessing education services, rules of behavior, and gender equality. Because I was going to moderate mass information sessions, I made many public speaking practices. Talking about the subject to other volunteer friends during practices made me very proud. Now I was ready to monitor information sessions in the field. The first sessions I organized for my close environment were followed by meetings with wider bigger participation. I became more proficient in informing people and facilitating their access to services. I met so many new people and listened to so many stories that my own worries dissolved in theirs.
Today I can touch people’s lives with Support to Life and can be their ‘familiar face’ when they need. I would like to thank Support to Life teams who encouraged and supported me and made me feel accompanied with their tolerance, attention, information, and most importantly friendship. The time I spent at Support to Life gets back to me as great value, makes me feel good and empowers me to do more for myself and for others. My name is Rande Hıdır, solidarity is what saved me.
*Rande was born in 1977. She is married with 3 children. Rande and her family have been living in Turkey for 8 years.
Mahmut Şen – Şanlıurfa Support to Life House Outreach Officer
Ceyla Altındiş – Support to Life Communication & Fundraising Expert