Dr. Humaira Iqbal travels to Turkey to visit an orphanage.
Where is the orphanage that you visited and who is managing it?
The orphanage is located in Reyhanli, Hatay and it is managed by Aitamassham (https://www.aitamalsham.org/). They work closely with the Turkish government.
How many children were there and are they local Turkish children or refugees?
There were about thirty children in the orphanage we visited – only Syrian children. This particular orphanage was exclusively for children with mothers.
Is this shelter mainly for kids or are there any additional families or women, who are looked after, too?
The ground floor of the orphanage is used for a school. The remaining floors consist of 2-3 bedrooms along with one kitchen, one bathroom, and one sitting lounge. Each bedroom is for one family – mother with her children. The place is managed by a couple (husband and wife) who are also Syrian refugees.
What is the main source of funding for this orphanage?
The main source of funding is donations from various organisations, such as Al-Wasila and another from Australia. Sometimes they receive a major donation from a rich family. Majority of donors are Muslims. IHH, a Turkish government program, also contributes regularly with medical aid and food rations.
Are the conditions satisfactory for these orphans in respect of their basic needs, such as health, education and Deen?
The children are very well cared for – Abu Taha, who is in charge, treats them like his own children. He takes them for ice-cream and to the park once every week. It is very clear that the children love him. Basic healthcare is free for Syrians in Hatay. Regarding education, the initial plan is to continue with the help of Syrian teachers. Later, the government will slowly move the children to the Turkish curriculum and teachers, which will be followed by giving them Turkish nationality. The Deen aspect is very strong – they have Hifz and many more activities, which instil the love for the Quran and the Sunnah.
What is the greatest challenge this orphanage faces presently?
The greatest challenge is to cover daily expenses, until the children are old enough to support themselves and their mother. The other big challenge is the emotional trauma most of the refugees have suffered. One of their major concerns is keeping the children away from the streets and busy in constructive play and activities.
How can other benefactors or donors come forward to contribute?
Simply raising funds and donating them to Al-Wasila. Money is the best form of help, because it can be equally divided and spent only where needed.
What impact did this visit have on you personally?
What we see on news is just news. As they say: seeing is believing. Well, that is exactly what it was for us. For a long time, when I saw the pain and sufferings of our Muslim brothers and sister, I had wanted to give them a big hug – getting a chance to do that was well worth it!
Why did you choose to travel to an orphanage that far off?
This was just a family vacation to Turkey, similar to what anyone else would take. But there is always this desire to take our children away from the false attractions of this world and show them the truth. I could not imagine going to a country right next to Syria, without taking the opportunity to meet them and ask them how they were doing!
What else would you like to share with Hiba’s readers?
What they need to remember is that it is so very much worse inside Syria – no peace for those living there. We need to remember them in Tahajjud.
Interview conducted by Rana Rais Khan