A story from UNICEF Turkey: What Happiness Looks Like?

Hasan Family holds onto life again in Turkey. @UNICEF/2019/Ergen
Hasan Family holds onto life again in Turkey. @UNICEF/2019/Ergen

“Fatma’s the blessing on our house,” says Omar Hassan, looking fondly at his 19 year-old daughter, who is mentally and physically disabled. Fatma is the oldest of six children. The smile on her face is every bit as warm as her father’s. She joins in our conversation with the Hassan family by smiling, and every now and again by nodding her head in agreement.

It was six years ago when the bombing in Aleppo became too much. In one night, the family packed up and crossed over into Turkey. For four years they lived near the border in Kilis Then they moved to Ankara because of the children’s health needs. Two of the six have disabilities and Ahmet, the youngest, suffers from asthma. The twin girls, aged 15, and the 11 year-old boy are not with us, because they are at school.

For mother Hadduc, happiness is the smile on her children’s faces first and foremost. “If my children are safe, if they can smile, if they can go to school and their health is being cared for, then nobody can be happier than I am,” she says. Just like all the other mothers around the world!

One-stop shop
We met this charming family at the Al Farah (‘My Happiness’) Family and Child Support Centre in Ankara. As a result of the cooperation between UNICEF and the Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), the European Union, the Government of the United States and other donors, a total of six Al Farah centres located in five different provinces of Turkey are providing refugees and asylum seekers with support in meeting their basic protection needs. For the families, this is a “one-stop shop” that offers a range of child-friendly and child-centred services.

The ‘My Happiness’ Centre in Ankara has stood by the Hassan family as they have resolved one problem after another: sending their children to school, keeping them there, accessing health services, and preparing the documents needed for all these things. Mother Hadduc, worn out first by the conditions in Syria and then by her children’s health problems, has started to receive psychosocial support from the centre.

To be children again
Abdullah, the family’s nine year-old son, is doing very well at school. He has trouble walking due to a muscle condition. With the help of the centre, he has received the health support he needs and is having regular check-ups: the family recently learned that the deterioration in his condition has slowed down. He is the darling of his teachers, and to make his life easier the school principal has decided to keep his class on the ground floor. What’s Abdullah’s definition of happiness? One word: “pizza”.

As for Fatma, she is never happier than when she is watching Indian films dubbed in Arabic in the safety of her home.

Along with ASAM and all its other partners, UNICEF continues to work to provide millions of children like Fatma and Abdullah, who have borne the brunt of the conflict in Syria, with education, health and protection services that allow them to be children again.