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Remembering the children
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The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working to make sure they have the opportunity to be children.

The most vulnerable members of the Kilis refugee camp in Turkey are Syrian children.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working to make sure they have the opportunity to be children.

Relief agencies agree that refugees from Syria seeking shelter in neighboring countries will soon total 3 million. An estimated 1 million uprooted Syrians already have taken refuge in Turkey. A few miles from that country’s southern border with Syria, the city of Kilis, with a normal population of 88,000, has swelled to encompass an additional refugee community of more than 70,000.

Many of the displaced have managed to find homes using their own resources, but an increasing number cannot afford to do so. This vulnerable population increasingly must rely on official provision, such as the state-provided Reception Center in Kilis, a refugee camp.

Opportunities for children

Francesco Paganini (center), UMCOR’s International Disaster Response executive, with Syrian Children in a Child-Friendly Space at a refugee camp in Kilis, Turkey. The Child-Friendly Space is made possible by International Blue Crescent with funding from UMCOR. In a Child-Friendly Space at a refugee camp in Kilis, Turkey, Francesco Paganini (center), UMCOR international disaster response executive, interacts with Syrian children. International Blue Crescent, with funding assistance from UMCOR, provides the Child-Friendly Space. 

The UMCOR-supported program provides refugee children in the camp opportunities to play and interact, “to be a child, even in these difficult situations,” said Francesco Paganini, UMCOR executive for international disaster response, after a recent visit.

“Our support is essential for the children to have access to the care and help they need.” Gifts on One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday makes UMCOR’s important work possible.

At the core of this care and help, implemented on the ground by UMCOR’s Turkey-based partner, International Blue Crescent (IBC), are Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS). Conceived as a combination of informal schooling along with emotional and psychological comfort, CFS allows caregivers to monitor the physical and mental well-being of the children and provides a holistic response to their needs.

A small but telling part of the support is that UMCOR’s assistance ensures that the children receive daytime snacks, bringing some variety to the two regular meals per day that IBC supplies.

Many of the children have suffered shocking experiences amid the horror of war that overtook their homes and neighborhoods. In Kilis, Paganini recalled feeling moved by “the children’s ability to respond with resilience in the wake of trauma you and I would have a hard time imagining. I would end up — when the boisterous singing and laughing made it almost impossible to hear any adult conversation — feeling sad and yet able to smile at the same time,” he said.

Intentionally remembering

As the flow of Syrians uprooted from their homes continues unabated, it is sadly clear that major assistance to refugees in neighboring countries like Turkey will continue to be needed well into the future.

Paganini reflected on the all-too-common danger of dwindling global interest.

“There can be a tendency to forget human tragedies on the international scene,” he said. “We at UMCOR are intent on not forgetting this population.”

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, One Great Hour of Sharing calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God’s love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR’s “costs of doing business.” This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on One Great Hour of Sharing, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.

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