After four years in Turkey, 15-year-old Ahmed still carries one urgent wish: to return to the ‘good old days’ in Aleppo in Syria and maybe attend school again.
It is no coincidence if you find Ahmed at the child friend space, when visiting the Community Center in the outskirts of Ankara. This is one of his absolute favorite places – and one of the major reasons for him to volunteer at the center that is run by the Turkish Red Crescent Society and supported by the EU.
He is here almost daily. “I love the children friendly space, the volunteers there and how they teach the children,” he says and continues: “I am also very fond of the interaction with the children. I love to play with them and use time with them. The best is trying to teach them something – to draw or cut for example – and then see them succeed in it.”
Perhaps he is also trying to give the children a childhood that he did not have.
If he could turn back time
Even after four years in Turkey, 15-year-old Ahmed still carries a fragile but important wish.
“I only have one hope as the war ends: I want to go back to Syria and to the ‘old days’ where we all lived in a happy way. This is my only hope,” he says, and after some more reflection then adds: “I would also like to go back and study. But maybe it is too late now.”
As the war waged in and around Aleppo in Syria, Ahmed was unable to attend school for two years. “There was neither electricity or water, and it was impossible to continue in school,” he explains. Today, Ahmed works in a hairdressing saloon for men, where he mainly practices cutting hair of children.
Finding a new home
“When I first came to Turkey, I was happy as there was no fighting, no airplanes in the skies and no war sounds. But I was also lonely and without friends,” he says. Helping as a volunteer at the community center has changed this fact. “I now have good friends here. Especially the teachers and volunteers treat me very well. I feel at home here. The relationships are warm and good,” Ahmed says.
He is learning Turkish by interacting with the other people at the center, which has expanded his social network and made life easier. “I am more relieved now that I have learned Turkish. It feels good. I can engage in conversations with Turks, both understand what they say and tell a little about myself. I can shop on my own and ask about the prices on the market. If anyone knocks on the door, I can have a conversation with them to find out what they want,” he says and sums up: “Now, I have both Syrian and Turkish friends now, so it is a good social situation.”
His engagement in the community center has helped him to integrate to his new life situation in Turkey. And with it, a return to Aleppo in Syria will not be without cost, he seems to suddenly realize after some thought: “I would really miss the volunteers at this center, my friends and my work,” he says reflectively. ”It would be difficult…”
About the community centers in Turkey
In Cooperation with the Turkish Red Crescent the German Red Cross is helping Syrian refugees in Turkey. In a total of three community centers, the Red Cross supports the refugees with services such as language and craft courses or computer training. The refugees also receive psychosocial support. The community centers are financed with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Photos: John Engedal Nissen/ DRC