The Big Picture curated a photography exhibit on Syrian Refugee Youth in Turkey for the inaugural One Journey Festival, a celebration of the contributions of refugees that took place at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on June 2.
We partnered with Karam Foundation, a Chicago-based non-profit organization that aids Syrian refugees all over the world.
The exhibit was titled “The Children of Karam House: Healing and Ambition Among Syrian Refugee Youth in Turkey. The photography featured Syrian refugee youth who attend workshops at Karam House, an innovation center in Reyhanli, Turkey, where young Syrian refugees print 3-D models, design plans for public spaces, learn the Turkish language, and explore the fundamentals of photography.
The exhibit included portraits of children as well as testimonials written by the children who wrote of their dreams, ambitions, and what they learned at Karam House. See the exhibit and testimonials here.
From Border Town to Small City
The children are not far from home. Just three miles from the Syria border, Reyhanli was once a small and sleepy Turkish border town but now has grown into a small city since the start of the Syrian conflict.
“I want others to feel the way I feel – to have some sense of responsibility that we all need to build humanity again.” – Reem Al Shaikh
With over 4 million unregistered and registered refugees in the country, Turkey has faced increased demand in local resources. In Reyhanli, the number of Syrian refugees in the area has been reported to be approximately 120,000 – compared to the 60,000 Turkish residents.
Tensions have grown between the refugees and local Turkish residents. Through an education and community-oriented approach, the work of Karam House seeks to bridge these tensions by serving as a community center for the local Syrian and Turkish population where people can engage one another and attend lectures and workshops.
“Karam House is a place where you gain valuable experiences. You can meet new people who encourage you and provide you with the tools and methods to fish instead of giving you a cooked fish.” – Kifah Abdulsalam
While a number of initiatives have been established in Turkey to attend to the needs of children, education remains a major challenge. Many refugees have gone anywhere from two to five years without being enrolled in school.
According to Human Rights Watch, “only 325,000 of more than 930,000 school-aged Syrian refugees” attend school. There are a wide range of reasons for the gap, ranging from language barriers to economic needs which force children to drop out of school to work and support their families.
“I want to be a famous scientist. I hope I can alleviate children’s suffering around the world.” – Majd Aldin Salam
A Return to Learning and Healing
Karam House offers refugees a space to return to learning, immersing them in the study of science, technology, engineering, visual arts, languages, and math while also learning important career and entrepreneurial skills necessary for them to contribute to the local economy and prepare them for a successful future transition into the job market.
Since 2013, Karam Foundation has served over 8000 Syrian refugee children and youth. Members of the refugee community in Reyhanli lead and run the day to day operations of Karam House and are employed in a variety of jobs, including as teachers, mentors, and library staff.
“When I started attending Karam House, I was not excited. But when I joined the workshops, I got very enthusiastic and started to work hard on my projects. I learned new things I didn’t know before. I saw extraordinary things I had never imagined.” – Khadija Al Said
Karam House is a place for Syrian refugee youth to be creative, and inspired — where they can access a global world of possibility and opportunity – and also a space of healing for youth who have witnessed and survived the trauma of violence and displacement.
“Karam House is a place where I can do whatever comes into my mind. I can change my negative energy and channel it into something positive.” – Hussein Al Rahal