As a volunteer-based community center, AD.DAR helps Syrian and Palestinian families, young adults and students to rebuild their lives here in Turkey. Currently, AD.DAR runs a preparation school for children, Turkish and English language classes for adults, children art classes, a crafts group and book club for young women, film nights, and a theater group for young adults.
We offer a full schedule of ongoing activities for young people and adults including: conversational English and Turkish courses, TOEFL exam preparation courses, theatre workshops for young adults, children’s theatre projects, original play production for young women, journal writing and storytelling for young adults, a young women’s book club, Yoga & meditation, and weekly free cultural events like concerts and film screenings. Approximately half of our courses are taught by Syrian volunteers, with the other half taught by international volunteers, providing a rare and essential opportunity for cultural exchange and discourse.
In addition to our center-based activities, Ad Dar is the first private, volunteer-supported and non-religious initiative to help Syrian refugee children enroll in school in Turkey. Our staff acts as advocates for these children, and guides their families through the daunting procedure of police registration, documentation, and enrollment. As of September 2014, we have worked with Syrian families to enlist over 60 children in Turkish State schools! We also support these Syrian children and their families as they negotiate the challenges of adapting to a new culture, a new language and new neighborhoods and classrooms—our all-volunteer staff of Turkish tutors help these children integrate into their neighborhood schools by offering homework support and Turkish-language help on the weekends; these volunteers also mediate between the schools and the families whenever necessary.
AD.DAR Community Center is a great example of reimagining the learning spaces. There are similar initiatives in Istanbul where Syrian teachers teach Syrian children but AD.DAR is not only a place to learn but also a community center where Syrians mix with Turkish volunteers and get familiar with Turkish culture, which helps speed up transition to their new environment.
How might we turn learning spaces into community centers where refugees can mix with natives?