Kilis, Turkey – 4 June - “Lamis, Lamis Lamis!” children shouted as Turkish actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Tuba Büyüküstün arrived at the school. “Her name is Tuba!” a women tried but a child insisted; “I see her on TV all the time and her name is Lamis!”
Hundreds of children and parents gathered for the opening ceremony of UNICEF’s new school. Tuba was overwhelmed. For a first mission with UNICEF, she had a busy day, full of emotions.
It started in Kilis camp for Syrian refugees, just kilometers away from Turkey’s border with Syria. Children welcomed her at the UNICEF supported child friendly space. They were learning how to recycle paper. She joined them.
Muhannad, 15, stood in a corner. He usually spends time at the Child Friendly Space, helping younger children with their activities. “She is very well-known and girls like her a lot,” he said. For a few minutes, he tried to look careless then rushed to have his photo taken with her. “It’s so nice of her to come put a smile on children’s faces”. He was smiling.
As the Goodwill Ambassador continued her tour at the camp, Ayat, 2, and her mother watched from their window. “It’s very important to let celebrities see our living conditions. Let them tell the world what they see,” said the mother.
The word spread around, a group of refugees gathered to meet the star. She is with a family, in their container. The crowd got excited when the door opened. At the doorstep, a child was holding the only leg his mom still has.
Tuba looked voiceless but managed to get her smile back for a last photo. She just heard to the women’s story, a story like many others from Syria. War, blood, hunger, displacement and a leg left behind before ending up in this camp.
Later in the day, a few kilometers away, other Syrian refugees gathered at the opening ceremony of the first UNICEF school outside the camps.
“This is my first mission with UNICEF and I’m glad to join this ceremony,” Tuba addressed the crowd. “80 percent of Syrian refugees do not live in camps and most of their children had no access to education. I am proud and supportive of UNICEF’s response. I call everyone to step forward and help us bring children back to school and bring them back their hopes.”
Standing at the last row, Abu Hamza looked chic in his grey suit, of his hair’s color. He taught for more than two decades in Syria and is volunteering to teach here. “I know she’s the VIP,” he said. “But she came to us, to our children. It means we are also important enough.”
Written by: Rafik ElOuerchefani