Winter Tests Us All

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This blog post was provided by Darcy Knoll from CARE Canada.

For Canadians, winter could mean wrangling mittens over little fingers, braving crisp air to collect some scarce winter sunshine, or enduring a frigid wait while the car defrosts in the morning.

But for a refugee from war-torn Syria, winter brings yet another unimaginable hardship and challenges the resolve of already vulnerable children and families to survive another impossible day. For Syria’s refugees, a makeshift home could be metal shipping container-like house like those at Azraq camp in Jordan, or makeshift shelters like those in Lebanon.

It has been more than seven years since millions of refugees first fled Syria and many still struggle with poverty. As cold temperatures kick in, this adds a further burden to meet extra expenses for clothing, blankets, coal or heaters. Finding the funds to better insulate a home is harder still.

Every single minute, 31 people around the world are forced to flee their homes. Around the world more than 65 million people have been forced from their homes by wars, violence and persecution.

CARE Canada has been supporting refugees since the start of this crisis with aid including blankets, warm clothes, heaters, cash assistance, and more so that families have what they need to survive the elements.

Over 3.5 million Syrian refugees are registered in Turkey alone, making it the largest refugee hosting country in the world.  Refugee camps are rare in Turkey; most refugees live in poor quality housing in or just outside cities.

Jihan and Kirjan are sisters-in-law who live side-by-side in two small houses. Their homes are in Islahiye, a district in southern Turkey, not far from the Syrian border where many refugees now stay.

Jihan Alam and Kirjin Ali at home in Islahiye. Turkey. Photo courtesy of CARE Canada (2018).

The two mothers live with their children and grandchildren, including a granddaughter who is just 11 months old.

“I came to Turkey in 2015,” says Jihan. “When we arrived to this house, the conditions were very bad. There were no locks on the doors, the glass in all the windows was broken. This made us feel very vulnerable.”

As winter approaches, CARE’s assessment has shown that 70 per cent of Syrian refugees living in southern Turkey live in inadequate shelter.

While winters in Islahiye may not be as cold or snowy as Canada, temperatures can drop below the freezing mark. Light snow may fall here, although a cold rain is more common. It feels colder still in a poorly-insulated, drafty home.

On top of inadequate shelter conditions for the long and cold winter, Kirjan tells us how vulnerable she felt in her current home.

“There was no lock on the main door onto the road, which leads to here through the garden outside, and the walls were very low,” said Kirjan who has since benefitted from CARE Canada’s support. “CARE came here and built the wall higher. They put locks on our doors.”

Jihan Alam and Kirjin Ali’s storage space in Islahiye. Turkey. Photo courtesy of CARE Canada (2018).

CARE’s shelter program works to support individuals and families to upgrade their dwelling and ensure families feel safe, secure, and sheltered from the elements.

Thanks to the actions of our supporters, CARE Canada was able to make urgently-needed improvements for Kirjan and Jihan so that their families could better face the coming winter.

CARE Canada installed a stone path up to the houses over the existing dirt path that clogged with water and mud during winter. We hung a door on the shared bathroom that sits between the two houses and installed a hand-washing sink. Another door was added to close in their shared kitchen and the sink was connected to water mains so that water didn’t empty into their front yard.

Jihan, who has her hands full providing for her children and grandchildren, was thankful for the support.

“It’s much better now, thanks to CARE’s help,” said Jihan. “It’s much safer, and in the winter it’s better because there is not so much mud and dirt. We want to stay here in a safe place. We have been through many things. Things no one should have to go through. We have to get on with our lives and work for our children’s futures, but for this, we need a safe place, like this.”

Through CARE Canada’s shelter program, we have been able to support nearly 23,000 individuals in Islahiye through household upgrades, communal building upgrades, and community structures.

As Canadians, we know the day-to-day challenges that winter can bring. Just imagine how difficult winter will be for those without a safe and secure home.

To learn more about CARE Canada, or to make a donation, please visit their Charity Profile Page.

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