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June 13th 2016 – July 4th 2016
I (Sarah) arrived in Izmir on June 13th together with Sabine. We e wanted to use the first week to get to know the refugees situation in Izmir. Fortunately we were able to follow two members of the medical team of MedVint, who took care of peoples health issues (Katrin Römer, Andrea Schwaiger). After getting a first impression of the situation in the first week we created a first plan of how to continue our work there (Sabine left after the week).
The situation on site: In Izmirs district of Basmane there are many people from Syria who fled a few years ago, living in cheap old apartments. On the outskirts of Izmir there are about 20 camps in the middle of fields. Each camp accommodates 20 to 80 people, some of them have been living there for several years.
The difference here is that these people work 10 hours on the fields for a minimum wage and have to live under terrible hygiene conditions. Because they don’t receive anything form the state of Turkey this is there only option to live a life here. Since people in those camps are not eligible for Turkish hospitals and doctors the MdVint team comes to them and orovies medical help on site. There is also team Imece, which supplies the people with food. There are no other volunteers in the camps!
In the city centre there is the Initiative ReVi, which built a school for Syrian children and started the project Tohum foundation to support empowerment. For me, the biggest difference compared to camps in Greece is the lack of organisations and volunteers on site. This is one of the reasons we decided to keep working here.
When Georg and Laura arrived on june 20th, we concreted our plans considering our possibilities. In addition to our own project, Georg also worked in the nursing team of MedVint. We focused on working with kids because we got to know children who were born here, who came here when they were little and who grow up here now. Children, where you don’t talk about school or kindergarten because they have never experienced this kind of education. Young people who do not receive any support at all which is quite hard to imagine for people in Austria for example. They don’t do anything but wait until they become 8 years old. Then they are old enough to work on the fields. We are talking about children with a lot of potential which doenst get any support.
Therefore we work in two areas. First there is capability training for the kids, starting with thinking tasks, concentrations trainings and learning how to sit still, as well as excercies for their motor skills, creativity and self confidence.
There are many possibilities to show a child it is capable of doing things, building thing and I will long remember their proud faces when they finished a puzzle for example. We use different games like memory, puzzles and calculations games as well as ball games, jumping ropes and group games. Furthermore we try to teach simple English and maths skills. We combine these kinds of trainings with important health promotion, especially about hygiene. Many illnesses develop because of lack of hygiene so we want to start by giving courses about brushing teeth and washing hands the right way. In the best case we can also reach some adults that want to join our trainings.
We will take important things tot he camp tht they dont get from Imece for eample. We know what they need because we get to know them and their living conditions. This time, for example, they were in need of sunscreen, body lotion and Bepanthene creme. Because of the solar radiation and the pesticides on the fields a lot of people suffer fom skin problems so we hope the lotions can help!
Laura, George and me focused on 4 camps in order to really work with the people continuously. Our experiences were versatile and we wre able to share some beautiful moments with each other, which is why I want to state them to you. The children in the camps are all different. The big number of children in some camps can be challenging while in other camps it is very calm and cosy. Once a father told us it was the first time that someone came and took time to play and talk to the kids even though they lived there since 3 years. To me this was very touching and showed me once again how impotent our work is. It also explains the childrens behaviour because they simply aren’t use to this kind of engagement. Nevertheless, working with them got easier and easier every time. Also the parents were happy about our visits and invited us to lunch or tea where it was always a pleasure getting to know them. Getting to know people who lost everything, who work on the fields when there are 40°Celsius and who cant offer their children any education, but still sit together at the end oft hey day, chat and have fun. I have seldom experienced such warmth and kindness in Austria and I’m impressed by their strength. If we can only support their children a little bit like for example showing them how to hold a pencil or how to follow certain rules then there is at least an important fundament where can work on. On July 4th David and Viki came to continue our work and we are happy to have such motivated team members!
I (Georg) had the opportunity to work win the MedVint team with OA. Dr. Katrin Römer from Swityerland, Dr. Jun and Dr. Ranmeet from Malaysia, midwife „crazy mama“ Michelle Ruebke fram Kansas and Hasan, our translator from Syria. Everyone not only did their best every day but also have a great sense of humor which was probably the only thing helping to coap with all the hard strokes of the Syrian people here. We drove from camp to camp, 2 or 3 times a day. Once a week we drove to the Syrian distrit Basmane in Izmir to do home visits. The camps are located 1 to 1,5 hours from Izmir by car, sharing fuel costs.
Refugees are not elgible to the Turkish health care system and hospitals don’t take care of them. Medvint helps hundres of them, at least we tried to reach 3 camps a day but sometimes we coudlnt make it. Depending on the amount of sick people, the hours we spent in each camp were different. We would spend 5 hours in one camp and in another one there was no medical help needed at that time, for example. I am still impressed how they handle their situation and how they didn’t use eternal ressources like our project. I’ve seen a lot in the past two weeks and learned how bad hygiene, bad health care and working conditions can ruin someone. So many physical problems accure because of that, infections of all kinds, eye and skin problems, caries, allergies, diarrhoea, menstrual problems, cough and many more. Unfortunately we don’t have any pills for lack of perspective. This came up every now and then when we were playing with kids, made them laugh or vice versa. I will never forget the cute little ones from the chees camp (the make cheese there).
A lot of diseases occur because of the climate and working conditions, like I said. We treated people suffering from chronic back pain, circulatory problems, asthma attacks and many different diseases. I experienced a great hospitality from people who don’t have anything. Don’t eat up the bread or you will get more. As soon as you finish your Chai tea you will get a refill, their hospitality and warmth is overwhelming. But I also learned how ruthless people can be. Landlords exploit refugees, right and wrong get mixed together and we keep on wondering why. After fleeing to Turkey, that is when they survive, Syrians get picked up commissionars. Theses criminals look especially for women and children to hand over to landlors, because they are cheap workers to them. Once they are picked they are being transported with a truck. Labour law? Safety law? Nothing. It is a network of criminals, shamelessly using the hopelessness of the Syrians. They will go back when the situation in Syria is better. Noone want to come to Europe anymore. The live in small camps, in old cabins between fields with around 50 others, what can I say. There is a lot awfulness happening in Turkey. Hasan, our translator is a funny guy though, his humor helps us to blow the cobwebs away and I am very thankful for that. I enjoyed the work in Izmir a lot and made a lot of friends. Although there is a lot more to tell, this was my report and I hope I was able to give our readers an interesting insight view of what we do here.