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Işıtılı Gelecekler (Bright Futures)

A mental health-oriented daycare + community-building service offered to women and children ages 3-8 living in refugee camps in Turkey.

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

Our population of interest is Arab mothers and their children ages 3 to 8 living in refugee camps in Turkey. We are focusing on providing this population with adequate mental health resources to better ensure their rights to joy, hope, and dignity. Refugee camps often provide food, water, and shelter but fail to go beyond. Refugees in camps struggle to receive, culturally-appropriate mental health resources. Women and children are particularly vulnerable due to multiple reasons. In the face of uncertainty, women have responsibility for not only themselves, but often for their children and the well-being of their families; not to mention that women face larger threats related to the fragility of displacement, namely physical or sexual violence, and reproductive health concerns. Children living under these isolating and often high-stress situations, without the appropriate resources, often internalize the trauma they experience, which can lead to stunted development, behavioral disorders, and inability to integrate socially. Compounded within a family unit, lived experiences within these traumatic situations must be highlighted within a reliable space where care can be given without aggravating or dismissing the trauma. Our mental health-based project is inspired by the Swedish barnahus model, which envisions a single facility where all relevant stakeholders gather and treat the patient to streamline the healing process. The program would consolidate mental health resources while also providing childcare and community building. It would be a two-tiered system: we would provide a daycare for children supervised by mental health specialists, and provide a community space for mothers. Incentivized by homework help and/or Turkish lessons, mothers can visit a website we will design to better advertise and streamline access to these services. Our facility will serve as a center for community and a respite from the daily struggles associated with living in a refugee camp.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Our project targets Arab mothers and children living in Turkish refugee camps. We chose Turkey, first, because of its status as the world’s number one refugee-hosting country and thus its diverse opportunities for enriching migrants’ lives, and, second, because our team has the linguistic and cultural expertise to navigate project implementation in-country. We decided to target Arab women and children because the Arab refugee population is Turkey’s largest and most underserved.

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)

Ensuring long term success in building bridges of empathy between two different populations requires long term investment. Investing in mental health better ensures a bridge of understanding between those displaced and the communities they are resettling into. Lack of investment in mental health makes it nearly impossible for these bridges of understanding to be built. Investing in refugee mental health better ensures long term gain for both the refugees and the communities they integrate into.

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

The human need we are serving is mental and emotional strength and stability. Our idea goes beyond basic needs to help people by providing a space and support systems for open and productive conversations for refugees living in stressful environments. Finding a stable source of income, schools for children, housing and clothing, and other material necessities are important when building these bridges between refugees and resettled communities, of course; but access to these resources are useless if these populations are not mentally stable. In fact, we see that lack of investment in mental health leads to poor integration into society, and by extension, lack of giving back to the community, which further enables the widespread sentiment of xenophobia. We hope to provide refugees the mental and emotional stability that they need to successfully navigate other important aspects of resettlement.

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

Our idea is designed to respond directly to the needs of the population we are serving. We hope that by implementing our project over at least a year and a half, we can see the lasting impact that support has on the population. Having a mental health professional advising a single family unit creates a reliable stream of aid that the mother and child would need to navigate other aspects of life within the refugee camp and beyond. An emotionally stable child can perform better at school; a mentally stable mother can provide for her family more effectively, positively impacting them and the community around her; and by extension, the community they may resettle in and contribute to. To measure change within our program, we have monthly check-ins via the website to give us feedback on the activities provided; as well, once support and aid is rolled out, we will have weekly check-ins with mothers about their experiences and feedback on the aid that their children are receiving.

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

Our project is loosely inspired by the Swedish “barnahus” (child house) model designed to treat victims of child abuse. With the goal of streamlining the healing process, ensuring subjects’ safety and security and identifying community resources, ‘barnahus’ envisions a center in which all relevant stakeholders are housed under one roof and support child abuse victims. Though our project will not include representatives of the legal aspect of migrants’ journeys, our facility will integrate childcare, mental health treatment, community building, and education support in order to support child migrants and their mothers’ full healing, development, and integration into Turkish society. This goal is particularly important for our target population, as they are often victims of severe trauma but receive little to no mental health care. This trauma is especially debilitating for children, as it can hinder their development and community integration.

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

Arab women and children living in Turkey’s refugee camps have diverse lived experiences and the mental health needs of each individual will vary widely. Even still, certain generalizations can be made about the medical and mental health needs of the community. The majority of this population has fled from Syria’s brutal civil war. The trauma of war, the decision to flee, and the arduous journey to Turkey often leave members of this community with severe yet untreated trauma. Additionally, unhygienic and unsafe conditions within many of Turkey’s refugee camps leave this population vulnerable to further traumatization. Despite these challenges, Arab women and children have the potential to benefit from a community with shared experiences and culture, which our project is designed to help unlock. Additionally, our project will help overcome the stigma of mental health treatment within this population by approaching it with a childcare lens.

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

Working with Arab women and children does afford us certain advantages. First, even if users are of different nationalities, the common language will allow us to serve the entirety of the Arab community with only one set of professionals. Additionally, members of this population often share many experiences and reasons for flight. This commonality, along with the collectivist nature of Arab culture, will make it easier to foster a sense of community amongst participants. On the other hand, despite many commonalities, refugee camps are still places of great diversity. By creating a physical safe space, we hope to channel this diversity into a productive and respectful community. Finally, working with children, whose youth will allow us to help shape their perceptions of the host society and their place within it, will allow us to establish a cycle of aid whereby the children we reach will feel empowered and inspired to help future generations experiencing similar hardship.

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

The primary partners we will work alongside in implementing our project will be the mental health professionals and social workers operating our childcare facility. These will be exclusively female, experienced mental health professionals who speak Arabic and have worked with either children or displaced people before. Additionally, we would establish partnerships with the Turkish government and the organization running the refugee camp we decide to operate in. These partnerships will be especially critical in gaining access to the camp and earning the right to build and operate there. We will also solicit help from the organization UniteToLight, which can provide free or discounted handheld lights for use in refugee camps at night. As an incentive to visit our facility, as well as to facilitate children’s reading and learning after dark and promoting safety within the camp as a whole, we hope to distribute these lights to our users.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

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

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name

Işıltılı Gelecekler

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

It is important that refugee families trust us; an important part of building trust is language. Our group has the Turkish and Arabic language skills to communicate on ground. We have all worked with displaced persons, be that through research, working in resettlement agencies, or having personal experience with the process itself. Our goal is to aid families in understanding their experiences so they can feel their sense of purpose- a goal that we know, and particularly Samar, a refugee herself, knows, is crucial to refugees. As a refugee from Iraq, Samar experienced her mother raising her children alone for 6 years. She never took the time to take care of herself, even when she grew ill. Only 7 years old, there was little Samar could do to help. We understand how important it is to invest in children, to make sure that they are included, especially when the family dynamic is precarious. Our ties to refugees equip us with the tools to empower the community we hope to work with.

Type of submitter

  • We are students

Organization Headquarters: Country

N/A

Organization Headquarters: City / State

N/A

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Photo of Sevde Şengün
Team

Hello Manya Balachander , glad to have your idea! Im from OpenIDEO Istanbul Chapter and we'd love to connect with you, check out our idea here : https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/2019-bridgebuilder-challenge/ideas/bridge-to-a-better-life-empowering-refugees-to-become-independent-and-productive-members-of-society/
our official page here: https://beta.openideo.com/chapters/42
also you can reach us by openideo.ist@gmail.com Feyza Vardar  Eda Yalkin 

Photo of Manya Balachander
Team

Hi Sevde! Thanks so much for reaching out! I've just sent you an email, looking forward to hearing from you!

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