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Bridge to a Better Life - Empowering refugees to become independent and productive members of society

A social platform of vocational and technical education for the refugees in the society encouraging them to have meaningful connections.

Photo of Feyza Vardar

Written by

What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

According to UNHCR, Turkey currently hosts 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees along with over 365,000 persons of concern from other nationalities, which is the largest number of refugees worldwide. Our research conducted with Syrian people and several NGOs that work on this issue indicates that refugees in Turkey are treated in an unfair manner in employment, housing and judicial settings in addition to facing discriminatory behaviors and prejudicial attitudes in society. The most important obstacles in integration into society are the language barrier and formal education. Even educated refugees cannot pursue their own professions and are forced to work in underpaid jobs that doesn’t match their skills and qualifications. In order to solve these problems, and allow socioeconomic growth and development, we propose a social center of vocational and technical education for the disadvantaged people in the society. The center will allow both the local people and refugees to be educated according to their level of knowledge and skill set, practice and attend social activities together. Our 36 month roadmap consists of some pilot courses such as languages and culinary arts. Later on, these courses will increase in number as classroom capacity expands. Upon completion, attendees will receive a certificate of professional competence and assistance during job placement in their respective fields. It has been shown in a study (G.W. Allport, 1954) that face to face contact between members of two groups in conflict promotes positive relationships and therefore leads to prejudice reduction. Regarding this, our idea aims to make people interact with each other as individuals rather than as members of different groups. We plan to develop a sustainable service as well as being visible to allow social adaptation and reduce prejudicial attitudes.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Turkey / Istanbul With the civil war in Syria in 2011, the Syrians took refuge in Turkey following the open door policy. According to the data of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Turkey is ranked first among the countries that accept Syrian refugees. Today, 3.6 million Syrians are living in temporary protected status in the different provinces of Turkey.The provinces where the Syrians migrated the most are; Istanbul, Gaziantep and Hatay.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Culture is one of the reasons why bridges cannot be established between the citizens of the host countries and the refugees. The lack of knowledge of the differences and similarities between cultures in different groups of people leads to a decreasement in empathy. In order to break down the social barriers, both cultures should recognize each other, adopt and respect intercultural differences. Our project aims to get to know each other and build empathy by bridging the two cultures.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

According to the research, many Syrians in Turkey are forced to work illegally in difficult jobs for less than minimum wage and many refugees who have degrees find it difficult to find a job in their areas of expertise due to the challenges of obtaining private sector work permits. For this reason, the social space we offer will help their personal empowerment and allow a better integration into society. Refugee integration means building a new life with dignity, becoming an independent and productive member of society. Our aim is to be the bridge towards achieving this integration. With the social center, we want to empower refugees to obtain the skills to be self sufficient through educational programs and achieve a better life for themselves. In addition, we aim to create healthy social ties between migrants and local people, to break mutual misperceptions and to encourage interactions at the social level.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

According to the research, many Syrians in Turkey are forced to work illegally in difficult jobs for less than minimum wage and many refugees who have degrees find it difficult to find a job in their areas of expertise due to the challenges of obtaining private sector work permits. For this reason, the social space we offer will help their personal empowerment and allow a better integration into society. Refugee integration means building a new life with dignity, becoming an independent and productive member of society. Our aim is to be the bridge towards achieving this integration. With the social center, we want to empower refugees to obtain the skills to be self sufficient through educational programs and achieve a better life for themselves. Half of the refugees in Turkey are women who can't speak Turkish, don't have professions and have children that they have to take care of. Therefore, we aim to increase the integration of Syrian women in society and create a place for them.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

We have looked into NGOs and projects that support refugees and displaced people in Turkey. From many examples, we have found some that inspired us. One of them was the project Mutfakta Umut Var (Kitchen of Hope) which was implemented by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) working with the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) and the World Academy for Local Government and Democracy (WALD). Kitchen of Hope aims to equip both Syrian refugees and Turkish citizens with professional cooking skills and help them gain work experience. The programme includes two months of technical skills training and an additional 2 months on-the job training at a partner hotel, restaurant or café. The project allows two different groups to come in direct contact, get to know each other and understand better. We got in touch with representatives of the programmes and asked them the main problems they were facing. And we talked with some Syrian refugees that live in Istanbul and asked about difficulties in their life.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

When the Syrians started to take refuge in Turkey, no one had predicted that they would reach such a large number. Asylum seekers attracted more attention when they began to settle from the border cities in the south to the big cities in the west. Due to its geopolitical position, Turkey is a transit and waiting point besides being a new home to refugees.This causes many asylum seekers to refuse adaptation. There is limited interaction between refugees and host communities, which results in poor understanding of their situation.Even though Turkey and Syria are geographically close and have common points, they actually have very different cultural backgrounds. Even if the refugees from Syria decide to stay here, they are not very open to integration. In the meantime Turkish people have various prejudices against the Syrians.Unfortunately, the news in the media inciting this situation.Therefore, we believe that breaking perceptions is our major need.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

We think that this project will have a significant impact on the perception of the host community because of an economic contribution will emerge.The interaction of local people and migrants who participated in the activities is one of the most important parts of our project. During our research, we found that there are a lot of small associations and organizations in the country that do something for refugees.The most important reason we are not aware of them is that their lack of visibility. For this reason, we also ponder the steps to be taken so that all the activities to be done are visible in some way.Our goal is to spread this project to other refugees who are not involved in this project and to be a pioneer.First step we’ll prepare informative audio-visual social media campaigns and based on the actions taken during the project, we will organize meetings where different community agents come together to share experiences.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Creating a platform that will touch many different lives will require having diversity in stakeholders. We plan to be in contact with local humanitarian organizations, such as the Turkish Red Crescent since it is the largest humanitarian organization in Turkey and have been integral across activities designed to promote the development of social welfare. We also will be in contact with Business for Social Cohesion (B4SC) and World Academy for Local Government and Democracy (WALD), who actively work on and contribute to creating alternative, functioning methods and instruments for development and establishment of human needs. In the end, we hope to create a platform that unifies immigrants and citizens, paving the way towards a more welcoming and inclusive community that enables individuals to leverage their freshly learned skills and become a more engaged part of society.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

OpenIDEO Istanbul Chapter

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

OpenIDEO Istanbul Chapter team and other contributors

Website URL:

https://beta.openideo.com/chapters/42 https://twitter.com/Kizilay/status/1143060113789464576 (Project, Mutfakta Umut Var)

Type of submitter

  • We are not yet a registered organization but looking for collaborative partners

Organization Headquarters: Country

Turkey

Organization Headquarters: City / State

İstanbul

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Photo of Julie Allaire
Team

Hi Fayza. Your story shows how enormous the challenge is, and makes the case for how a broad many-pronged solution is needed. Because the scale and complexity can be overwhelming, it may be useful to figure out one small piece that is a good starting point. For example, you mentioned connecting to Turkish Red Crescent. If you also had a small town/village where you could find a local NGO partner that has the trust and connections of both refugees and villagers, you could pilot your social media/education campaign there as a starting point.

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