Today we had our support group session for parents and siblings of children with autism. We woke up early this morning to prepare for the activity we planned for the families. Before the session, we continued conducting mid-way reviews with our families. During that time, Sarah prepared a maze for our activity using a long rope and chairs. After finishing the reviews, we had the parents and the siblings blindfolded before entering the session room. For this activity, the challenge was that they had to enter the maze and try to get out of it while being blindfolded. They were allowed to ask for help only by raising their hands. Some parents were going on circles around the maze without finding a way out, so they asked for help. Surprisingly, the siblings were more persistent than their parents. They kept trying for a longer period of time, but eventually raised their hands too. The help they got was that the blindfold was removed and they were guided out of the maze. The message from this activity was that sometimes when we are in a trouble or facing some problems, what we might just need is to ask for help instead of overthinking solutions. To reflect on the activity, Taima said “I thought I was able to go out of the maze on my own, but I realized that I was going in circles so I asked for help”. Muna also said “This is what usually happens when I am at the hospital looking for a specific clinic. I always go around all the hospital’s buildings but when I eventually ask someone about the clinic I am looking for, it ends up being right in front of me the whole time!”
After the activity, the families were discussing how difficult it is to find affordable housing options for Syrians in Mersin. They reported that the apartment rental are always higher for Syrians than Turkish people. Lama, who was looking for a new apartment, stated that the owners of the apartments increase the rent annually for all Syrians for no logical reason. The conversation went on about the different ways that Syrian refugees are discriminated against. Muna reported an incident that happened with her when she was on the bus yesterday. She said: “There was a woman in the bus yesterday staring at me and making very rude comments. I did not understand what she said because it was in Turkish, but my daughter [who learned Turkish] told me that she was calling us cows and bulls. I was very angry but I could not do anything!” According to Muna, the driver of the bus stopped and asked to woman to go down because he thought this is not how Turkish people should treat others. However, Muna said “I know that there are some good people around, but I am afraid that someone would chase me or my children, so I always ask my daughters to speak Turkish when they are outside”, she added: “I might start thinking about putting my hijab in a Turkish way so others would think that I am Turkish not Syrian”. It is sad that the Syrian refugee community is still facing struggles by being discriminated against instead of finding support, even though some of them have been living in Turkey for more than 3 years.
After this long discussion, Lama helped us ending the session on a positive note by surprising us with a homemade chocolate cake to have a small celebration for her youngest daughter, who is turning one tomorrow. Thank you, Lama! And happy birthday to your little pumpkin!
After coming back from the center, Sarah decided to cook us the dinner tonight (I can smell it right now and I can tell that it’s going to be so delicious!)