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Learning new skills in Turkey

Learning new skills in Turkey


They made it to Turkey – but what next?

The Maharat Centre

Syrian refugees|Skills training|Over 200 attendees


With children out of school, university graduates dependent on aid and professionals struggling to make ends meet, the long journey for Syrian refugees who make it to Turkey is far from over.

As the civil war within the country enters its fifth year, more than half of its population has fled - Turkey alone is now home to almost 3 million refugees from across the Syrian border.

Until now humanitarian aid organisations have focused on emergency aid: providing shelter, food and other items to those who need it most – but the conflict shows no sign of slowing and for those who fled from it with nothing, it is their longer-term needs that are now being brought into focus.

This conflict has not just stolen lives, it has robbed people of their futures as well.

Too often those who have degrees or professional experience built across long careers are now dependent on aid or scraping by with jobs that that make no use of their developed skills. Many Syrians have lost valuable time for formal education – trapped with vital skills but no opportunity to capitalise on them.

To address these long-terms needs, International Medical Corps has partnered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to open the Maharat Centre – where refugees can get help with their CVs and gain vital professional skills in business, IT, finance, language and health.

“We need to understand the complex needs of Syrian refugees who face a long wait for their return to their homeland – those who want to live a self-reliant, independent life with a future that they can build themselves,” said Jeyda Yelkalan, part of International Medical Corps’ team in Turkey.

Located in the heart of Istanbul, the Maharat Centre aims to empower Syrian refugees through professional training courses, internship programmes and career development activities. In addition, the Maharat Centre will offer further career development services and job matching.

Groups of refugees will be able to undertake long-term training courses around various essentials such as navigating the Turkish tax system – alongside updates on skills such as marketing and accounting.

Tailored mentorship programmes directed at encouraging refugees to harness their skills and build lasting careers will be available, as will micro grants intended to stimulate new opportunities.

The centre opened in May with two day workshops attended by more than 200 people - and this is just the beginning.

The workshops were only a preview of a wide range of activities planned to take place in the Istanbul Maharat Centre - including an incubation programme for entrepreneurs which will support 20 start-up projects.

Jeyda Yelkalan, part of International Medical Corps’ Turkey mission, says the project promises to change the lives of many refugees in a way previously thought impossible.

“International Medical Corps - with support from UNHCR - has been able to make a change in how support is given to the Syrian refugees trying to rebuild their lives from scratch.

Istanbul Maharat Centre aims to support refugees to build their skills, be a part of a greater community and play an active role in shaping their own future – as well as that of their host country.

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