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Firefly for Syrians – An initial visit to Antakya

An initial visit to Antakya, Turkey March 2016
Report by Maria Chambers Project Coordinator at Firefly International.

Also featured Fadia Shaker, future Project Leader, and Aya Shamat, teacher and project assistant.

This successful initial visit lasted for ten days. Our Project Coordinator Maria visited Antakya in order to: (1) help to find a suitable space to rent close to the Habib Necca mountain on the edge of Antakya, the area where many impoverished Syrian refugees now live, (2) to build a strong working relationship with our coordinator there, (3) to meet the project assistant and (4) to assist with administrative issues such as registration with the Turkish authorities.

Fadia and Maria worked closely together to find a suitable space and to assemble together a team of local Syrians to help with the clean up and decoration of the top floor of the building. They furnished the office and three classrooms and are sourcing second hand desks.


Above – Our Future Center – We have rented the top floor of the building and hope to expand into the ground floor as the project progresses, depending on our fundraising capabilities.




Above – Some of the classrooms prior to our tidy up.






Above – Classrooms prepared for the children.



Above – The catchment area in Antakya on the Habib Neccar mountain where many Syrian families are living in cramped single-room accommodation that is barely furnished.




Above – Maria and Fadia enjoying the moment our first learning space was furnished!



Maria and Fadia bought the resources necessary for classroom activities, and now the center is ready to start registering children. Before that can take place we just need to finalise authorisation from the Turkish authorities, and so we are working closely with local Turkish officials and as a partner UOSSM to achieve this. We are very keen to start our first programme in the next couple of weeks. Each programme is scheduled to run for three months providing a creative gentle and safe space where children can learn, rebuild self-esteem and be supported on a pathway back into education and play.

The visit culminated with a visit from our primary donor who kick-started the project and a very useful meeting with UOSSM, which will now support the project by providing psychosocial support for any traumatised children that join the project. UOSSM will also train and from there reinforce resilience in our centre staff.

The visit also enabled Maria to get up-to-date information and raw insight into the situation in Antakya for Syrian refugees. For now Antakya is a peaceful place with its 200,000 refugees reasonably but inadequately absorbed in the city of one million. Many Syrian families are living in very basic accommodation and there are only limited school places open to Syrian children (two new schools opened this year). Many have had no educational opportunities since leaving Syria and have to work in the streets to help raise money for rents, sorting rubbish or working in the markets.


“The overwhelming feeling I came away with was the amazing generosity and resilience of this Syrian community that is devoted to rebuilding their lives and the lives of their children. Fadia is a passionate, organized and devoted teacher who is dedicated to leading a project that will change these children’s lives and provide a strong foundation for their learning and futures.”


Maria Chambers
Project Cordinator
Firefly International.


30 March 2016



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