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Press Centre (5/2014)

Bilal has started to smile again thanks to music

Music is the most favourite activity of Bilal who lives in Adana Sarıçam Camp. ©UNICEF/Turkey-2014/Yurtsever
ADANA, Turkey, May 2014– Youth worker Sevgi Biçer first noticed the serious boy at the opening of Adana Sarıçam Camp’s Child Friendly Space. “He was serious and aggressive, like an adult,” she said. “The other children were painting fabric, while he just walked around, watching.” The boy, Bilal a 14-year-old from rural Idlib, has finally found his place after discovering music. With time, he joined in with group activities and was laughing and joking with the others. He has learned how to play the guitar and also plays the tambourine. Despite being unfamiliar with Turkish singers and lyrics, he loves to play and listen to the music of his host country. When he speaks, it is clear that both music and other activities in the Child Friendly Space brought the child in him back.

Bilal arrived in Turkey with his family 15 months ago after a difficult journey — they had to cross the Orontes River to avoid the clashes between regime forces and the FSA. They first arrived in Nizip Camp, but since relocated to Adana. But Bilal’s father, a teacher, and his mother have stayed in Syria — Bilal lives in the camp with his six brothers and sisters.

His previous life in Syria was filled with football and riding his bicycle. He has had to leave everything and misses his life there terribly. “I miss my mother and father. We used to play with my brothers and sisters. I miss those days so much. I miss my teachers and friends as well. I miss Muhammed and Mustafa the most.”

Youth workers like Sevgi are trying to provide students between the ages of 14 and 18 with leadership skills for the future. Many of the students are like Bilal and have been separated from their parents by the conflict. According to Sevgi, this leadership training has made a huge difference to Bilal. She said, “As a Leader Student now, he guides other students who are younger than him.”

Bilal is already taking a leading role and helping other children at the camp. He says, “I go to school from 8 o’clock in the morning until 12 noon. On Mondays and Wednesdays I come to the Child Friendly Space. If there are a lot of students, I keep an eye on little kids. I make sure that they do not make too much noise. My favorite activities are music, art, printing, draughts and ping-pong.”

And Bilal wants to follow in his father’s footsteps — as long as he has time for his other passion. “I want to be a teacher in the future, but I also want to  be much more involved in music if possible,” he says.
Story and photos by Ayberk Yurtsever
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