Finding Refuge: An Update from Turkey

In 2016 Hannah Joy, who is part of the Bethnal Green Service, moved out to Turkey to work with Syrian and Iraqi refugees. She wrote to give us an update.

Living in a small and comfortable town, it’s almost impossible to contemplate the atrocious living conditions of many families who come to the area to seek refuge from Syria.

At the beginning of October, the Syrian Ministry team drove to a poor area just outside the centre of Yalova to visit some families. Having already registered 52 families in that area alone we weren’t expecting to meet any new faces, however after leaving one family’s house we quickly became surrounded by around 50 desperate people, only a few of whom we recognised.

That day we registered 15 new families, all of whom we visited in the following week. One of the families, 2 parents and 7 children, live in 2 small rooms, without windows, gas, electricity or running water. Some of the smallest children had nasty looking infections covering their bodies. I asked the mum what had happened and she simply said ‘I don’t have any water, I can’t keep them clean.’ When we gave her the BIM cards we saw pure gratitude on her face – the sort of gratitude a desperate mother would show after receiving a small but necessary gift.

The final place we visited was a small derelict building where 20 people lived (5 families). They also greeted us with genuine thankfulness but expressed their regret at not being able to offer us a seat as they literally didn’t even have a carpet or pillows to sit on. All of these families face a harsh and difficult winter – we just pray we can provide them with the necessary means to cope.

There were many pregnant women amongst these very poor families so we started distributing new born baby packs. Many of our expecting mothers have nothing to provide for their baby when its born and this is a big concern for them all. Therefore, to relieve some of this stress, we give them a baby blanket, clothes, nappies and wipes. No matter how difficult the situation of the family is, a new born baby always seems to provide hope and joy despite all the hardship.

Nevertheless, nurturing a baby in these harsh conditions is not without its risks. Heartbreakingly, this summer a baby boy called Jumaa, born to a Syrian family who we know well, died when he was a week old. Born prematurely and discharged from hospital, Jumaa lived with his family in a house without an actual floor, no electricity and no running water. His mother didn’t have enough food to feed herself so therefore struggled to breastfeed him. When I met Jumaa I was shocked by his size – I’d never met such a small baby in my life. I promised to come back a few days later with milk powder and a bed, however by the time I returned Jumaa had passed away. His suffering ceased but that of his family pursued with greater intensity.

When it comes to sharing the love of God to these families its often difficult to get past peoples desperation for basic necessities such as food. However we know that providing food vouchers is fruitless without sharing the bread of life, Jesus.

Christ Church London helps to support Hannah each month with some living costs. She is also supported by CRY ( and through a part-time job teaching English. If you would like to know more or help contribute to the work she is involved with, get in touch with Tim Frisby, our social action coordinator.

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