Can Eminoğlu | 8 July 2021
Thanks to the support of the United States of America, persons in need of international protection and their hosts build dynamic relationships through projects such as Dream Garden implemented by UNHCR and its partners.
Samsun, Turkey – On a sunny day in the Black Sea region of Turkey, we meet 14-year-old Ayad*. Ayad was born in Aleppo in Syria and fled to Turkey in 2014. He is a hardworking Syrian student who lives in Samsun with his family. Ayad was one of the participants of the completed Community Support Project ‘Dream Garden’, implemented in collaboration with the Provincial Directorate of National Education and with the support of Samsun Metropolitan Municipality, other district municipalities and the Provincial Directorate of Youth and Sports. The seven-months-long ‘Dream Garden’ project, which was completed in 2019, aimed at boosting mutual interaction between communities through social activities with a creative twist.
A boy of many interests, Ayad actively participated in the project’s activities, from the choir to sports, to a book club, and to cultural tours and gatherings. These activities were attended both by persons forced to flee their homes and host community members. “I felt happy to be a part of these gatherings as it enabled us, young people like myself and from the community, to come together. We talked to one another and had a better chance to tell our stories to one another,” adds Ayad.
He thinks that with improved communication thanks to joint activities within the scope of the project, the friendships and understanding between the two communities grew and flourished. “With the help of similar activities, we got closer to our Turkish peers which also improved our overall educational performance at the school,” he highlights. Ayad, also says that the improved communication helped him excel at school personally. He regularly got ‘perfect scores’ thanks to this supportive environment and was awarded by his school with numerous ‘certificates of appreciation for his achievements. For Ayad, social cohesion activities are essential to building bridges between cultures and leading to success at school.
Ayad remembers that he was convinced of the positive impact of the Dream Garden Project, for which he also invited his friends and family members to participate in the activities of the project. Upon reflecting on the importance of mutual understanding between communities, Ayad wants UNHCR to share a message to all persons forced to flee their homes: “Better communication means a better social environment for everybody. This also brings about success both in school and in life. If I, Ayad from Aleppo, can do it, anyone can do it; just believe in yourself and do your best whatever you are doing!”
This interview was conducted in late 2019.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.