A Day at the Museum!
Last month, Karam Foundation organized a field trip for forty-five children enrolled in our Sponsor A Syrian Refugee Family program in Istanbul. Children visited the Rahmi M. Koc Museum, a private industrial museum that’s dedicated to the history of transport, industry, and communications. The museum opened the children’s eyes to the progression of invention of motor and engines and their manifestation in the various types of automobiles from around the world.
Prior to this trip, most of these students did not know one another, since they all attend schools in different districts in Turkey. In order to create a friendly and safe space for the children, they were assigned into groups of five with a chaperoning team leader. The leaders kept the children actively engaged with one another by facilitating discussions about the historical artifacts. Throughout the trip they led activities to encourage the children to get to know one another, resulting in newly formed friendships.
This field trip was exciting for the children, as well as our volunteer chaperones and staff.
Hassan quietly circled around the gigantic trains displayed in the Rahmi M. Koc Museum of Istanbul with a smile full of reminisce and amusement. The young boy from Aleppo had a demeanor not of an 11 year old boy, but of a young man who’s lived through tragedy and hardship. Hassan turned around and asked how old these trains were. When asked why he was so intrigued by the trains, he replied: “The first time I ever got on a train was with my father in Syria.” Hassan proceeded to ask if the museum dedicated a room to musical instruments. “My father was the best drummer in all of Syria,” he said proudly. His 10 years-old cousin, Ayah, was quick to add on that his father was a very kind and funny man who always made sure to bring them treats when he came home from work.
Hassan’s father was killed by the Syrian regime’s shelling in 2012. Hassan and his family moved to Turkey in 2014 and the young boy was forced to join the workforce in order to keep his family alive. He worked long and strenuous hours at a sewing factory as a delivery boy. After Karam Foundation heard Hassan’s story, they introduced the program to his family. Karam provides Hassan’s family with a monthly stipend so that he can continue his education instead of work.
Hassan is very excited that he’s made friends at school and boasts about how he can now speak Turkish fluently. He hopes to become a successful businessman one day, and he wishes to continue his education.
Ayah, cheerfully walked around admiring the classical automobiles parked in the museum and read each car’s description. She spoke about her grandfather’s collection of classical cars and how it reminds her of the good old days. Ayah talked about her dreams of becoming one of the innovators that will create the future automobiles, which she believes will be different than what operates now. She, also, used to worked with Hassan in the factory, but quit to focus on school. This, she said, has made her and the family “very happy.” Ayah spoke about how school has changed her life, filled up her time, and allowed her to make new friends.
Ayah, who strives to become a future innovator, has a natural talent for interviewing and reporting on camera. When asked if she was interested in interviewing the rest of the children and chaperons on the trip, Ayah was quick to take on the task. She was confident as she circled the room asking questions and interacting with the people. She was a natural.
Each child holds his or her own unique skill set that has not been discovered yet due to the hardships they have faced. With schooling and a proper childhood, these children can learn to become active and influential members of society.
17-year-old Mahmoud Al Askari, a brother to three young sisters who is sponsored by Karam, insisted on volunteering and chaperoning the children during the field trip. He said he felt a responsibility to give back to his own community. Mahmoud lives with his mother and siblings – his father has gone missing in Syria. The young boy displayed responsibility, reliability, and characteristics of leadership as he managed the children and made sure no one got lost.
Karam Foundation is currently sponsoring the education over 200 Syrian refugee children in Istanbul through our Sponsor A Syrian Refugee Family program. Many of these children were forced into child labor and were working instead of going to school. Through this program, their families receive a monthly stipend so that their children can continue their education.
This post was authored by Leila Alwan, a volunteer with Karam Foundation in Istanbul, Turkey.