TURKEY

Turkish volunteers retrieve lost childhood of Syrians

AA Photo

Turkish students are bringing joy to Syrian children who have been deprived of a childhood in the war-torn country.

Forty-five volunteers joined the Borderless Festival organized by the International Refugee Rights Association (UMHD).

They organized fun-filled activities such as theater plays, street shows, workshops, and dance performances as part of the festival which will run through Sept. 21.

Salih Sarı, a student of Islamic studies at the Istanbul Şehir University, said he was volunteering at the festival for two years.

"We are here to leave a little smile on the faces of the children, to leave unforgettable memories for them and to be part of their happiness," he said.

Despite long hours of work, Sarı said the volunteers are highly motivated and energetic.

Children at various elementary schools in Syria's northwestern city of Azaz also received school supplies at the end of festivities.

"Even if we get tired, a smile of a child here is enough to start the next day with more energy," said Muhammet Cevher Bülbül, another volunteer from Istanbul.

Ceyda Yıldız, a psychology student at Istanbul Şehir University, said she joined as a volunteer due to her interest in forced migration and war.

"It was one of my biggest dreams to come here. I wanted to have a different perspective than the ones reflected in the media. I wanted to have my own perspective on these children and to get in touch with them," she said.

A young couple also joined the volunteers.

Iskender Tagiyev said he saw details of the program last year on social media and decided to join with his wife.

"We wanted to make the children happy, we did not know what mental state they were in. We were surprised and upset about how hungry these children were for entertainment," he said.

Sare Köroğlu said she had many distant relatives in Azaz and was curious about her heritage.

"The most impressive thing I witnessed during the festival are the children; even if they get hurt during the games by falling down or getting pushed, they still continue and you can tell they are longing for a playground like this," she said.

The festival which aims to reach 10,000 Syrian children will hold its last event at the Elbeyli refugee camp in Turkey's southern Kilis province.

As the conflict in Syria entered its ninth year, children inside the war-weary country continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. Many young Syrian children have never known peace, living in squalid conditions in refugee camps.

According to UNICEF, some 5.6 million children still need humanitarian assistance in Syria, while 2.6 million remain internally displaced.

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