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16 November 2023 - Story


Photography above; Farah's* grandchildren including Hamid and Sila in their tent after recieving the clothes they choose. / Özge Demiral - Save the Children Türkiye

At the heart of our mission at Save the Children Türkiye lies the belief that every child deserves to grow up healthy, safe, and educated. For the past nine months, we have been working to ensure children affected by the earthquake can access the goods and services they need while supporting their mental health and recovery following crisis. We recently undertook a clothing distribution project that exemplifies our commitment to making this vision a reality.

The February 2023 earthquakes in southern Türkiye destroyed the homes of hundreds of thousands of families. Many of them were unable to save their belongings, leaving them with limited access to basic items such as clothing. Further compounding the situation, the post-earthquake socioeconomic situation makes it difficult for many to find work and afford to purchase the items they need.

This initiative, with the funding received from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, involved the distribution of clothing to 2,034 children over a span of two weeks. Every child received six items including a t-shirt, cardigan, shorts, jeans, hat, and shoes. While many humanitarian distributions do not typically allow participants to choose the items they receive, this special project encouraged children to select clothing according to their own tastes. With six different items included, each box delivered was as unique as the child receiving it.

Aysel Dag, one of our case workers, shared her experience working on this project, explaining, "We went to every household one by one, and we helped children choose their own clothes. What makes this distribution different is that we delivered the clothes that the children wanted and loved. This made the distribution very special for us and for the children." Burcu Eski, Monitoring, Evaluation, Acountability and Learning Asisstant, emphasized the significance of collaboration and the happiness that arose from children actively selecting their clothing. "Their happiness and excitement were visible while making the selection, and this was one of the most beautiful things we did."

Many parents tried to join in on the selection process, but our team found a way to convince them respectfully to not to get involved. Barbaros explained, “Most of the parents wanted to choose such black, patternless clothes for their children. But when we left it to the children, we saw that they chose red shorts, yellow tops, pink vests and dresses with flowers and butterflies. We saw how they were able to unleash their innate sense of freedom.“

Save the Children Türkiye's distribution team delivering the clothes door to door - Özge Demiral - Save the Children Türkiye

The distribution also allowed our teams to identify child protection concerns to provide follow-up and support. Barbaros Duman, a psychosocial support facilitator, said that going door to door for the distribution also helped to detect cases where child labor, abuse, illness, and early marriage were occuring. Thus, this distribution laid the groundwork to further support affected communities.

During the distribution, we spoke to Farah* (85), the grandmother of a Syrian refugee family living in the tented area where the project took place. Farah lost her husband and fled from Syria with her family, ultimately finding themselves in Türkiye. Unfortunately, after the earthquake, they lost their home and were displaced yet again – as was the case for many refugee families.

Hamid* (10), Farah’s grandson, told us how the Save the Children Türkiye team came to their tent, and he got to choose trousers and a t-shirt for himself. His sister Sila* (6) added with a huge smile, "We are very happy because we can wear new clothes now."

Farah spoke about the distribution with gratitude. "The children felt like their birthday had arrived. I felt very happy and emotional seeing them like that."

At Save the Children Türkiye, we believe in creating opportunities for children to make choices and experience joy. The success of this clothing distribution is not just in the numbers; it is in the smiles, in the children's laughter, and in the hope that we've ignited for a better tomorrow.