(UNHCR) – Refugee children from Syria have few reasons to smile. The two-year-long conflict in their homeland has brought great suffering to them and their parents. But on Wednesday in Turkey, one group of Syrian refugee children received something to bring a small bit of sunshine into their lives – a consignment of 60 boxes of toys sent to them by children in France.
The toys were collected by the Quai Branly Museum in Paris with the help of the UN refugee agency and the Fédération des Associations d’Anciens du Scoutisme (FAAS).
The charity group, Aviation Sans Frontières (Aviation without Borders), organized and bore the cost of flying the toys out to the southern Turkey city of Gaziantep, where they were collected and taken to the kindergarten and nursery schools of the Nizip 1 and Nizip 2 refugee camps. The schools provide an education to 736 Syrian children aged between three and five years old.
“The children were very excited and enjoyed playing with the toys,” said UNHCR Public Information Associate Selin Unal, who was present at the distribution. “The Turkish authorities, which administer the camps, conveyed their thanks to UNHCR and the partners involved in the organization of this project.”
Over the past year, French schoolchildren have been taking part in workshops at the Quai Branly Museum, which specializes in the indigenous art, culture and civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.
In what has become an annual campaign, the Parisian children were invited to bring one of their own toys in good condition and then make another toy from recyclable materials. At the same time, the children learn about the situation of refugee children of their own age, who have been forced out of their homes by war or persecution.
This year, thanks to a large mobilization by the FAAS, which is affiliated to the International Scout and Guide Fellowship, more than 2,000 toys were collected. Staff from Aviation Sans Frontières, UNHCR and the museum helped to pack the toys.
Turkey is host to an estimated 400,000 Syrian refugees, many of them children. These include some 192,000 refugees living in government-run camps in eight provinces and more than 200,000 refugees in urban areas. Between 300 and 400 new Syrian refugees arrive every day in Turkey.
The Syrian refugees are provided with shelter, food, health assistance, security and education, including vocational courses. The humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee influx is coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Agency, with operational support from the Turkish Red Crescent and other agencies. UNHCR provides technical advice, support and non-food relief items.
By Selin Unal in Gaziantep, Turkey and William Spindler in Paris, France