July 2nd 2016 – July 22nd 2016
Viki and I continued the work from team 1 in Izmir and thankfully George (who has experience at the camp) stayed a few days longer and introduced us to the situation and connected us with other volunteers. Therefore we went on a road trip to two different camps around Izmir on our first day.
At around 9 pm when we came back we realized not only that there would be an adventurous time ahead of us but also the desperate needs of the people and the importance of an interpreter. Since the MedVint team had free spots in their car for a few days, we decided to join them. While volunteers from MedVint provided medical care, we offered a program for children with puzzles, Jenga, memory games and drawing opportunities. Math exercises and literacy were also part of our program. Most of the children don’t go to school here in Turkey but rather start working on the fields with only 12 Years of age. We showed them many new games and they showed interest in writing, calculating, English and a lot more. It wasn’t hard to get the childrens’ attention but it was much more difficult to coordinate games for big groups like 15 children. Playing memory with 20 people for example can get quite chaotic.
After a few introduction days we rented a car to be independent, worked with an interpreter and other volunteers. Every day we visited 2 to 4 camps and stayed about 2 hours in each camp. This way we were able to start trainings about brushing teeth. We had prepared little bags with toothbrushes, toothpastes and cups to rinse out the mouths, because in most of the camps there are no sinks. A big Thank You goes out to our sponsors who funded the products.
All in all we had a great time in the camps and time flew by but unfortunately our daily work got disturbed when there was the coup attempt on July 15th. Although there were not a lot of riots and demonstrations in Izmir, we once again got reminded of what is happening and how we were in a grey area of Turkish legislation without legal. Nevertheless we continued our work together with the other volunteers. Because of the uncertain situation no other team would come after our service. We were very sad about that because education can only happen through continuity. At least we were able to hand over our games and material for the classes to the inhabitants in the camp as well as the NGO ReVi so that they could continue.
Our personal highlight was experiencing the birth of a baby in the camp. We stayed at the camp the whole night until, early in the morning before sunrise, a little baby girl came into the world – surrounded by a wonderful mother, a great medical team and a very experienced midwife from MedVint. She was born under the simplest conditions we could never imagine and after we have worked over 24 hours in 3 camps she was still able to bring a smile to all of our faces.
We left Izmir with a heavy heart, knowing how easy it is for us as Europeans to get on a plane and go back home to our familiar life while refugees around Izmir have to wait in their tents all over winter without future perspective.