SURUC, Turkey, May 2015 – Some people become artists after finishing art schools or conservatories while some are just born that way. Khalid from Kobane is the latter.
Although he does not want to admit that he is an artist, he is surely has an inherent talent. After a couple of days manipulating simple copper wires, he shapes them into art. Nowadays he is patiently working on a cyclist riding a bike, while sitting in the Child Friendly Space in Suruc Refugee Camp. He’s been working on this design for the past couple of days.
Khalid came to Turkey with his family four months ago after a rough journey fleeing from the conflict in Kobane. The 17-year-old suffers from a physical disability caused by hemophilia. “My father lifted me and carried me on his back as we passed through the border,” he says.
We ask how long he has been into the copper wire craft. “Since I was a little child”, he replies “I mastered it by myself.” He is not a keen talker and tends to give short and concise responses to all our questions. Apart from the objects he creates out of copper wires, he also designs cardboard houses, but doesn’t have enough materials, he says.
“I’m just passing the time. This is all a hobby for me” says Khalid who’s ambition to become a computer engineer. Khalid had to quit school in the 4th grade back in his country. He knows how to read and write, but he did not have the chance to continue his education.
Two kilometers on his father’s back
Khalid’s father Faruk talks at length about Khalid’s doctor in Aleppo, the periodical injections he needs to get as part of his treatment and how he carried him on his back until the border. “We left the village as soon as we heard the gun shots. We spent the night on an empty field, and we hit the road early in the morning and travelled 40 kilometers by car. It was very hot when we reached the border under the burning sun. That was when I carried my son on my back; it was very difficult. We walked two kilometers until we reached the Turkish side. We had to leave our home and animals behind; but we survived.”
His father says the last time they took Khalid to a hospital in Şanlıurfa was two months ago. Faruk’s only wish is to make sure that his son’s treatment is not interrupted due to the conditions in the camp.
“I am not that happy to be here… I want to go back to my home country,” says Khalid, clearly finding adapting to a new country and the life in the tent city difficult.
He’s now a youth volunteer
The day we met him, Khalid had just became a youth volunteer in UNICEF’s Child Friendly Space. “I was bored in the tent; then I decided to come here. This is my first day as a volunteer. I’m glad to be here,” says Khalid sitting in his wheelchair while attentively watching the coloring works of children aged 8-10.
Now he will have the chance to share his talents with younger children as they take part in activities altogether. “I can sing, too, but not that much” says Khalid timidly.
Nihad, an officer in the Child Friendly Space and a Turkish Red Crescent Youth Worker, briefs us on the contributions made by youth volunteers like Khalid, as he oversees the painting activity at the same time.
“We assign the youth with responsibilities”
“The children coming here are mostly 4 to 18 years old. The ages of our youth volunteers who help us with the activities we conduct with these children, on the other hand, vary between 14 and 18. We train the volunteers and they help us, in turn. During some activities, we let them take the lead and manage the group. Our basic aim is to take the children’s minds off of the war.”
Indicating that they carry out different activities for different age groups, Nihad tells us the activities for small children mostly consist of games, coloring, music and drama, whereas they organize interviews and team work activities for the older ones.
“As this one is a new camp, we have just started scanning for people with disabilities. Khalid is our first volunteer with a disability. He has been at the camp for a while now, but this is his first day as a youth volunteer. He has great handicraft skills. I believe he will be of great help to us with such a talent,” says Nihad.