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on a positive impact

Johnson & Johnson and Save the Children support for Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Save the Children and Johnson & Johnson are working together in Istanbul to strengthen the resilience and coping capacity of vulnerable children and families from refugee communities who are dealing with traumatic stress.

Together with the Maya Foundation, our local partner, we’ve created a space for program participants to freely express themselves and receive psychosocial support. We hope to help children and families reduce the effects of traumatic stress, develop problem-solving skills, build healthy coping skills, define and distinguish positive and negative emotions and manage reactions, and connect with the community.


From Aleppo to Ankara to Istanbul

Saliha*, her husband and three children arrived in Turkey in 2014. They had owned their own house in Aleppo, Syria, but when it was destroyed in the conflict, they knew they had to move to a safer place. They rented a home in a different part of the city, but their landlord decided to sell up and leave Syria and they were homeless once again. They knew it was time to leave and they moved to Ankara in Turkey to be near some relatives. Later, Saliha’s mother-in-law and father-in-law arrived in Istanbul and the family moved there to live with them. The family is still adapting to this latest move.

“I start my daily routine by cleaning the house. Afterwards, I pay a visit to a neighbor I know from Syria. I have two other Syrian friends in Istanbul so sometimes I spend my time with them. In the remaining hours I cook food for dinner. I don’t have any relatives. My family is in Gaziantep. I want to continue Turkish lessons. I know a little bit of writing and reading in Turkish,” says Saliha.

“Life is Turkey is better than in Syria because people here are humble. They help us a lot. I like Turkey’s lifestyle and culture. I am really used to it now. We do not know so many people in Istanbul but we had a few friends in Ankara. They helped us a lot. They did their best,” says Saliha.

“Before we learned Turkish, everything was much more difficult. We noticed some differences between Syrian and Turkish cultures but we also realized some similarities. The lifestyle is very similar. I am more comfortable in Turkey than in Syria. I am more open minded. I have more responsibilities,’’ she says.

“The children used to have more friends in Ankara because they went to school there. In Istanbul, they haven’t enrolled in school yet, so they haven’t made friends. Mahmud, my son, had friends in Ankara and he played with them a lot. When he played with his classmates he was happier and more confident. Leyla, also had friends whom she used to draw and paint with,” says Saliha.

The Psychosocial Support Services that the family is receiving at the Maya Foundation Center seem to be helping. “Before we came to Turkey, we used to be scared and afraid, but now we don’t feel that way anymore. We can sleep comfortably,” says Saliha.

Saliha is benefiting from the parenting classes at the center. “My biggest problem is Mahmud’s stubborn behavior. He doesn’t reply to me,’’ says Saliha. “I joined a few trainings and learned useful tips about child care and how to treat children in general. I felt so comfortable and relieved when I was in the parent’s session. It helped me a lot. My expectation is that my children behave better,” she says.“When I started going to the center, it felt like we were already friends. I didn’t feel like a stranger,’’ she adds.

The children say:

“I want to be doctor.’’ – Fatima,12  

“I like to watch war movies. Sometimes I watch adventure series episodes all day. I really like them. I want to be a police officer. My mother always tells me to be a doctor when I grow up. I’m happy here. I don’t want to go back to Syria.”Mahmud, 10

“I like cartoons. I like to design clothes for my toys. I like to play with them. I really want to be an art teacher. We are happy to be here. We don’t want to go back to Syria” – Leyla, 7