10 Days in Turkey

5th -15th May 2017

Ten Days in Turkey

Nature & Nurture were present in abundance. The photo shows the Tree of Moses, said to be 800 years old. It grows in a beautiful creek between an Armenian village and a Turkish village. All this beauty and abundance, but there were threats. Non-specific threats, relating to government indecisiveness & procrastination. Specific threats, such as acts of terrorism.

“The sign of a person’s love of God are those three virtues, Generosity as a sea, Affection as a sun, Modesty as soil Bayezi-el-i-Bistami (a Sufi) who lived from 777 to 850

A Village in Syria sent £5K to Firefly International for their Summer Programme for Teenage Girls, then a further £ 1.500. What did this buy?

  1. Salaries for the two Part-Time Teachers – who teach two groups Mon to Fri – from to 3pm to 6pm. The Summer Programme will continue during Ramadan when the other activity groups will close so the building can be re-decorated.
  2. Equipment – for the group, which included saucepans and a huge fridge (second-hand so not so economical to run)
  3. Uniforms – the pink overalls, that all the girls wear
  4. All other Materials – ingredients (milk and milk products)
  5. Stationery & Photocopying

Rasha and Halda teaching on the Summer Programme, making leban.

How are the groups doing?

As it is a new class, recruitment is a little slow and neither group is running to full capacity. One group has 6, the other 7 students.

Will there be a follow-up course?

Nothing is clear yet, a budget for a second course, on Crystallized Fruits was being discussed.

How was our visit to Turkey funded?

The trip was paid for by the volunteer, not the charity.

General Information about the Firefly Activity Centre, where the Summer Programme is held.

The centre is in a poor part of the city and used by other groups, during the week and at weekends. During Ramadan, only the Summer Project will be functioning as the teachers will be re-painting the centre. There has been some wear and tear during the first year of operation.

The centre teaches a variety of skills and academic subjects including Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Mechanics, Model-Making, Paper Cutting and the Arabic Language.

In Conclusion:

The Summer Programme is providing a valuable opportunity for the girls. The Firefly activity centre is assiduous in keeping records and accounts, our donation is highly valued. At present, our money is funding the Summer Programme: providing salaried work for two part-time teachers and tuition on dairy products for 13 students, which could be useful for starting home-based businesses, an activity which is not within the remit of the centre.

Rasha is one of two teachers taken on for the Summer Programme. She studied for 5 years at an Agricultural College in Aleppo, specialising in Food Technology. Both of the teachers on this programme are highly experienced and have great rapport with the students. In addition to teaching they also study, to extend their skills and network with others in the neighbourhood.. It’s important that the centre is part of a living, dynamic community.

Temporary Syrian Education Centres

In the early days of the conflict (2011) Syrians were allowed to set up their own schools and use their own (Syrian) teachers. Money was invested, often from overseas, but the policy now is for Syrian children to be absorbed in to Turkish schools and the Syrian education centres to be closed.

This policy is not without its problems:

  1. Turkish teachers may not speak any Arabic.
  2. Turkish teachers have little or no training in integrating other language groups.
  3. Syrian children – having missed 4 years of education, drop out of Turkish schools very easily.
  4. Children who are disadvantaged already, become more disadvantaged / disaffected.

These are broad statements, but corroborated by Save the Children Fund (education). They are also a selling point for centres like the Firefly Activity Centre (which is not a school), but give massive support to children, and personalise their studies. In addition to teaching Arabic, they use it in all the groups. The result is that children re-gain their confidence and integrate well into Turkish schools, because they have a positive attitude towards learning. In contrast SCF (education) told me they were worried about how many Syrian children were dropping out of (Turkish) schools. Firefly monitor the progress of their students who have made the transition to Turkish schools, liaising with all schools in the locality.

The Firefly Activity Centre offers free tuition to a thirteen-year old like Salim. He had missed 4 years of school and arrived barely able to read or write. He is now considered one of the best model-makers at the centre, whilst also attending a Turkish school, and wanting to be a great teacher. His family are poor so he takes one day out per week to sell clothes with his father.

The design for the chariot he is making is taken from a Roman war chariot, used for knocking down temples (as the video showed, that was used to construct the model). He has one sister who attends the Summer Programme, three more sisters and a brother. Salim is remarkable for his imagination and modesty.



Firefly International deliberately design projects so that local staff can develop them according to need and their own creative skills.

The centre is inundated with applications from would-be teachers. For every position advertised, dozens get in touch, by facebook and in person.

How can a negative outcome be avoided? These are only suggestions, based on observations:

Testing for Blood Groups (Science).

The Turkmen boy (left) model-making group

The Arabic & paper-cutting classroom


The Firefly centre is expensive to run. Partly because the building is old, partly because of the range of subjects and skills that are taught. In time we hope the take-up will be greater, for children who can really benefit. There are no nightmares, no flashbacks and there is no bed-wetting among the children who arrived with post traumatic stress disorder. But, there are thousands and thousands of Syrian refugees in the city. Transport could be a problem, although the centre provides transport at the weekend. All Tuition is Free!

I found the Turks friendly, helpful and quite prepared to share a silly comment, or a joke – they had a sense of humour, and a wonderful attitude to terrorism – Which airport was attacked? All the airports were attacked. In some respects, little has changed since Ottoman times. The Turkish love of procrastination – as a form of government – is deeply disliked by non-Turks, but gives the Turks plenty of wiggle room and a time line which is endless, very irritating if there is business to be done. Everything is also subject to interpretation. There is no such thing as a Yes/No, or indeed an answer to anything. They hold the cards. Living with this degree of uncertainty can be deeply troubling, especially if money or buildings are involved.

On the other hand, Turkey is looking after 2.9 million refugees and compared to the anarchy of Greece, the comparative order of Turkey was a delight.