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Press Centre (8/2016)

Cash Assistance To Let Talent Speak Up

Ammar (L) and his older brother Mahmoud - who also suffers from visual impairment - receive regular treatment by the Centre's staff. All photo credits: © UNICEF Turkey/2016/Barkan
ANKARA, 25 July 2016 – UNICEF’s Child Protection Support Centre in Ankara’s Altındağ neighbourhood is often the scene of drum beats and melodies with a merry pace.

Ammar, a precocious boy with an ear for music – and who has been visually impaired since birth – regales his peers, as well as the Centre staff, during weekly music classes. The 14-year-old’s prowess with percussion fills the facility with joy. The centre is operated by the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM) and supported by donors like the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), “I love playing the hand drum,” Ammar tells us, “I would really love to learn to play it better.”
Ammar’s neighbourhood in Aleppo was one of the first civilian areas destroyed during the conflict in Syria. His family – his mother, father and 3 siblings – narrowly escaped to a relative’s village in northern Syria, where they remained for three years. When that house too was destroyed, Ammar and his family were forced to leave. They crossed into the border province of Kilis in a bus operated by smugglers, before moving to Ankara – where they live crowded together in a 2-room apartment, struggling to make ends meet. Mahmoud, Ammar’s 50 year old father, used to own a grocery store back in Syria but couldn’t find work for almost 3 years. He now works 16-hour days as a mechanic, earning around 1,000 TL (approximately USD $330) per month.
Ammar’s family was identified by ECHO-supported ASAM outreach teams last year, and are now familiar faces at the Altındağ CPSC. Outreach teams have played a crucial role to improve the well-being of families and children who are in need of the psychosocial, medical, and legal services provided by the CPSC. By knocking on doors, working with local service providers and conducting house visits, they have brought vital help to reclusive and isolated refugee families. “Thank God for those people who found us and brought us here,” exclaims Sumaia, Ammar’s mother. “This centre has changed our lives. It’s a great place for my children to spend time and play. They are protected here and it is much safer than being outside on the streets.”
With funding from ECHO, Ammar’s family also received three emergency cash assistance vouchers of 100 USD, 300 USD in total, which helped them to cover their basic needs. “The vouchers came at just the right time,” explains Sumaia “we were running so low on food. But with this extra money we were able to properly fill our fridge again.” Just like Sumaia, some 3,170 families in Izmir, Ankara, Adana, Istanbul and Kayseri have received financial assistance and hygiene kits with the generous support from ECHO. UNICEF and ASAM distributed 7,500 ECHO e-voucher cards in the spring of 2016, each valued at approximately $100, to allow vulnerable families to buy essential items – such as food and clothing – from pre-approved shops. Families were thus able to spend their meagre incomes on other critical expenses, like rent and school costs.

In addition to benefiting from recreational activities and psychosocial support, Ammar and his older brother, Mahmoud – who also suffers from significant visual impairment – receive regular treatment and close follow-up by Centre staff. Though the staff say he requires an eye transplant to see fully again, Ammar nevertheless has great aspirations for the future. “If my treatment goes well and my eyes heal,” he tells us, “I want to become a pilot. I want to travel around the world. I want to see it with my own eyes.” 


UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org