Reading made accessible to young refugees in Turkey: a project supported by Humanium

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Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia… so many countries are victims of violent troubles, generating an unprecedented number of refugees. The record-breaking migratory movements are a source of numerous problems: apart from the deadly shipwrecks in the Mediterranean, the international community is under immense pressure to welcome refugees and provide humanitarian aid.

In Turkey, a country where it is estimated that just under two million asylum-seekers are sheltered, the UN’s Human Resource Development Foundation (HRDF) has been working since 1988 to help those in need, particularly following forced migration.

In Kadıköy, a district of Istanbul, HRDF welcomes up to 60 unaccompanied boys with refugee status in the Yeldegirmeni Youth and Child Centre. Here, young people aged from 12 to 17 can enjoy the benefits of psychological counselling, medical and social support, a legal advice system, and support in the administrative steps they will engage in. The goal of the HRDF is to offer boys who fled war or prison a safe and peaceful environment in order to give them the keys to be able to face their future as migrants.

In 2014, Humanium decided to donate a thousand euros for the construction of a library in the Yeldegirmeni Centre. HDRF’s limited financial resources meant that until then it had been unable to make available decent educational and cultural offerings. In order to guarantee young people an escape from their daily struggle and to ensure continual, individual development at the same time, what better means than books?

Thanks to Humanium’s financial aid, HRDF started collecting works in different languages. Initially planned for the first trimester of 2014, this project ran throughout the whole year. The surrounding conflicts had slowed the delivery of several books. Moreover, finding works in Arabic or Persian turned out to be more difficult than expected.

Nevertheless, last December, HRDF was able to add the latest works to Yeldegirmeni’s new library, to the great joy of its clients. The center is now equipped with one 126 books in English, French, Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. A collection of DVDs also brightens up the shelves.

Thanks to Humanium’s and HRDF’s joint engagement, these refugee children have daily access to books of their choice in Kadıköy. This access to reading serves as an important way of caring for the psychic well-being of young, solitary migrants but equally allows them to stay connected to the culture of the country that they were forced to flee, to care for themselves intellectually, and to expand their horizons. The obstacles and delays were therefore worth it.

Written by : Valentine Delarze
Translated by: Shazznic Beck
Proofread by : Bronwen Claire Ewens