Being a refugee means starting from scratch for many. Humanitarian aid can be a big facilitator for individuals that are struggling to regain their independence. In the case of Manat (11), we once again experienced how crucial can well-placed assistance be. It was invigorating for all of us in Istanbul field office to see a young girl full of hope and dreams smile and rejoice again.
With financial support of our partners European Union Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, our Support to Life Hub in Istanbul’s Kucukcekmece district offers a variety of services for vulnerable communities. In the case of Manat, there was no time to waste so when contacted by her family, our teams got to it right away.
Manat is a 4th grader; she is attending the same class as her younger sister because she missed out on 2 full years of education due to displacement and additional difficulties caused by her condition limiting her mobility. Manat was diagnosed with Sipina Bifida at birth, which is a condition that prevents her from using her legs. The electric wheelchair Support to Life helped her obtain by coordinating with relevant institutions enabled her to regain her mobility and commute to school on her own.
“I love drawing. I want to be a fashion designer when I grow up.”
Manat loves her school. She has dreams. Acknowledging her passion for school, her father used to carry her on his back all the way to school every day. However, being the sole breadwinner in the household, this routine was difficult to sustain for Manat’s dad. Getting a wheelchair, let alone an electric one, was not possible due to the family’s financial constraints. Now though, seeing Manat’s independent mobility, all family members in the household are smiling when they are talking about how good a driver Manat is, and express their gratitude for the assistance that made Manat’s return to school possible.
Manat’s father Mohsen is 34 years old and he is doing his best to address his family’s basic needs, as he faced without hesitation every challenge they encountered since they had to leave their home due to war. It turns out there were some challenges to address after Manat received her wheelchair too. Mohsen explains that he had to build a concrete ramp at the front door of their house for Manat to use. The road to school needed some fixing too.
“Thankfully, the municipality and the school administration were really attentive. They helped fix the road for Manat.”
Manat’s family Mohsen comes from a merchant family that has been living in the old town of Aleppo for many generations. He too was in trading business before the war. Thus, leaving Alleppo was not just leaving a city, a familiar environment; it meant leaving generations of heritage behind. Mohsen explains that he began working in the construction sector in Turkey, a day job here and a day job there, to make ends meet. It is toilsome work but he is happy that he’s been able to provide for his family. He doesn’t fail to mention that his construction skills came in handy when building the ramp Manat needed and when fixing the potholes on the way. His pride is easy to see.
Manat’s family is only one among thousands of refugee families struggling to re-establish independent lives. The challenges they have to overcome, the obstacles they face sometimes wore them down but they managed to stand tall by holding on to one another. Manat’s family is full of hope. Manat and her sister will receive a decent education, move on with their lives in Turkey, eventually have jobs here. They will expand their horizons, learn about the world. Their parents will be there to support them and give encouragement, and will keep on doing all in their power to a better future for their kids.
Çiğdem Usta Güner
Corporate Communication Expert