I’ve been finding it hard to put into words, the shock of visiting the camps around Izmir in Turkey recently.
We have been working in Izmir for a while now, with families living in difficult conditions in the city…too many people in tiny rooms with no money for food, dreaming of making the life-threatening crossing to Greece in the rubber boats that leave from there…
But nothing could have prepared me for this…
Team member Kelli Scott recently took me out of the city to visit the makeshift camps on some of the farmlands surrounding Izmir. Many Syrian families (who are not legally allowed to work in Turkey), desperately take up the offers from local farmers to work illegally, picking things like tomatoes and chillis, in the hope of saving enough money for the crossing to Europe.
It is BACK BREAKING work, which the whole family get involved in, men, women, and children too. None of them go to school. The farmers encourage this as they pay women less than men, and children even less. They work crazily long days in the hot sun, for months on end…the farmers providing them with the very basic food and shelter (for which they take money from their final wage, which they pay at the end of the season).
These people have no rights. They have no money, no dignity, no support system, no nothing…but they have hope. This hope for their future keeps them going, relentlessly working…until that day comes, when the tomatoes and have all been picked and the hundreds of hours of hard graft completed, when the farmer refuses to pay them…
And what can they do? Who can they tell? Where can they go? Ultimately vulnerable, they are totally exploited, Syrian victims of war, refugees, now Syrian slaves, picking Europe’s tomatoes….
I can genuinely never look at a tomato in the supermarket the same way.
Kelli and I were with a small medical team (one doctor, one midwife and one translator) who were administering basic healthcare to the people in camps. I sat in the tent in quiet horror as young girls brought in their despondent new born babies and the camp residents coughed around me, waiting to be treated for the back problems and muscle aches they suffered from being bent over all day, or for the allergies and rashes from the pesticides used in the fields.
As I sat, a beautiful woman dropped a tub of milk powder she had just been given. In a panic, a few of the girls scooped it desperately from the floor whilst the kids licked it hungrily from the dirt of the ground. I didn’t know whether to stop them.
I didn’t know what to do.
But now I do…
Since I’ve been home I’m struggled with so many questions…
Where is the international help here? Where is the government support? Why is there such a lack of information about what’s happening in Turkey?
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
But instead of getting too overwhelmed by the enormity of these injustices,Kelli Scott and our team have decided to take action and do SOMETHING.
We have started the fundraiser “The Five Pound Project” to address some of the short term, basic needs in the runup to winter which mostly cost about £5 each.
Hat and sunglasses (£5 a pair)
Mosquito repellent (£5 per family)
Mattresses and Mosquito nets (£5 each)
Shoes: (Flipflops (£5) or Boots (£20))
Basic food and hygiene products (£10 per household per week)
We have already delivered 20 mattresses for just £100, but this is a drop in the ocean when it comes to what is needed. This was in just one camp…but Kelli estimates there are about 15 camps in her area alone, home to approximately 1000 people, and this camp still needs so much more…a rubbish system, blankets, clothes.
Kelli is on the ground, doing the hard work for you, all you need to do is press a few buttons to help us.
(don’t forget to add GiftAid..free money!)
If you do want to be directly involved and volunteer, you can contact Kelli Scott directly. Also if you have any physical items worth transporting to Izmir, get in contact with her too.
This is an urgent one guys….PLEASE HELP US!!!