Thousands of Afghan, Iranian, Senegalese, and Syrian refugees have been traveling to the western border of Turkey since February 28, after hearing news that Turkey’s border with Europe had opened.
When refugees were not permitted to cross the border into Greece, they began gathering at an empty field in Edirne, Turkey, at the Pazarkule border crossing. The population has been increasing there and in other areas around the border since the end of February.
A team of three people from Mavi Kalem went to Pazarkule on February 29 to assess the situation and current needs – especially those of women and children.
After the first 48 hours, the team reported the following:
As the crowd got bigger every day, there were an increasing number of women and children among the newcomers to Pazarkule. Because the border area was a transition area, it did not have sufficient conditions for sheltering refugees. People in the area were staying on cold, wet ground in changing weather conditions.
The need for materials to protect refugees from the cold and rain was continuous. They needed more drinking water and ready-to-eat food packages. Groups such as babies, children, the elderly, and pregnant women also needed special support. Since then, basic humanitarian needs have been increasing at the gathering place.
As long as the Mavi Kalem team remained in the field, they actively participated in ongoing humanitarian aid work. The organization provided materials such as high-calorie food, sanitary pads, diapers, wet wipes, and baby food.
Mavi Kalem has worked in coordination with the Edirne Provincial Migration Directorate, Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), Social Cooperation and Solidarity Foundation, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the area.
The Mavi Kalem team left the area on the evening of March 2. They continue to monitor the process by following the changing needs of the population and the conditions in the field, planning their work accordingly.
Mavi Kalem is an association in Turkey that provides social support, especially to women and children and in emergency situations. Started in 2000 by a group of volunteers, it worked exclusively with volunteers for 15 years. The organization continues to preserve its values of volunteerism and social connection today.
This is why it is so important for Mavi Kalem to be present in the field to support other members of its community.
During it 20-year history, Mavi Kalem has worked both with women and children from Turkey and with refugees from other countries. It has coordinated emergency response, increased school attendance, hosted children’s arts and sports activities, promoted women’s health, prevented gender-based violence, and helped refugee women and children adapt to a new life in Turkey. In addition to working directly with the community, Mavi Kalem strengthens its impact through complementary research and advocacy.
Mavi Kalem’s current work focuses on carrying out holistic child protection in Istanbul, Gebze, and Adana, and on running a Women’s Consultation and Solidarity Center in Istanbul.
An example of the organization’s work with children includes its empowerment workshops for 12- to 17-year-old Syrian girls. The organization created the program for Syrian girls in 2018 by translating and adapting workshops it had previously implemented with Turkish girls.
The series of workshops help raise girls’ awareness and encourage them to think about issues such as adolescence and their bodies, sex and gender, physical and psychological health, healthy sexuality, violence, and abuse. In these workshops, the girls are also encouraged to share what they have learned with their peers. Last year, Mavi Kalem held over 50 workshop series with Syrian girls across Turkey. The workshops will be implemented again this year.
Mavi Kalem also recognizes that to truly empower refugee children, it takes the entire community.
In addition to working directly with children, the organization strives to create healthy environments where children can grow and thrive. Mavi Kalem believes that work with adult men and women can help create more supportive families and societies for refugee children.
For example, Mavi Kalem developed a series of workshops together with Syrian refugee men to promote women’s empowerment. Themes of discussion include preventing gender-based violence, parenting, women’s participation in the workforce, and gender equality.
Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.
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