Wonders of a Miracle
A brighter future for Syrian refugee children
12-year-old Fuzi loves dancing and has more new friends than he can count – but it was not long ago that he was aimlessly roaming the streets of Istanbul as one of many Syrian refugees robbed of their futures by the relentless war.
Fuzi’s family fled war-torn Syria when the young boy was only nine and have spent the last three years fighting for survival in the crime ridden neighbourhood of Tarlabaşı.
Finding himself in a place where most children his age viewed him with suspicion, Fuzi quickly became withdrawn.
As the Syrian civil war continues into its fifth year, more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees are now living in Turkey. There is little hope among Syrians to return to their country in the near future, and Turkey has become home for large numbers of refugee families with children.
“Although there is practical humanitarian assistance pouring in for the refugees, so far there has been little emphasis on the need to integrate both communities and to provide services that enable them to live together for longer periods of time,” says Serkan Bozkurt, International Medical Corps’ Community Liaison Officer in Turkey.
“With every day that passes both communities are becoming more restless, resentful and polarised.”
To address this issue, International Medical Corps collaborated with Arada Cultural and Art Association and Sururi Elementary School to produce ‘Wonders of a Miracle’ – a powerful art performance focused on the importance of friendship and unity.
Funded by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and staged under the umbrella of the Istanbul Children and Youth Biennial at the Antrepo stage and Tatavla Theatre, ‘Wonders of a Miracle’ was made possible by a diverse mixture of Turkish, Syrian and Romani children between 9 and 14 years – youngsters who themselves were in charge of choreography, production and costumes.
“Some of these children go to school together - yet they still view each other with suspicion,” Serkan said. “For many of them this was the first time they interacted with each other.”
Like Fuzi, many children come from challenging circumstances and carry psychological scars from the ongoing war – kids deemed unlikely to make something of themselves in the future.
‘Wonders of a Miracle’ has changed all that.
“We have seen significant improvements in their self-confidence, their ability to express themselves and their motivation to learn and create,” Serkan says.
Fuzi has attended every class and says it has helped him come out of his shell. “My favourite part is the hip-hop dancing - and together with my cousin I have also started rapping.”
Emir - a 13-year-old Romani boy in Fuzi’s group - said that before he joined the programme he had only one friend and often felt lonely. Just months ago the teenager spent most of his time wandering around Istanbul, living rough and seldom attending school.
He now heads to school regularly – and says that he has learned a lot from his classes. He has started painting and is planning to form a hip-hop group with his best friend.
“I have fifteen new friends,” Emir says proudly, “from Syria, Turkey and also other Romani children. I finally feel like I am part of the community.”
Serkan added: “This moving performance has achieved more than just a good show. It has enabled this diverse group of children to come out of their shells, gain confidence and acceptance and to become leaders amongst their peers.
“The group has also made a tremendous impact on the wider community, gathering the support of not only the parents, but also of the school and outside associations.