It’s not easy to start afresh in a new country, especially when the decision is not voluntary. Yet, this is the unfortunate reality for many Syrians: the ongoing conflict in Syria has put many people, especially children, in a vulnerable situation, and forced them to flee for safety to nearby Turkey.

Nahed is one of those Syrian children. She is only 11 years old but already had to go through so many things that her baggage of experiences can compare with any adult’s one: due to the conflict in Syria, she lost her father and home—and after many struggles ended up in Turkey with her mother and three siblings.

As for any child that has to flee their home, it is not only a life-changing experience but also entails long-lasting consequences: Nahed now needs to adjust to a new country and culture, return to school, and continue her education in a foreign language. All of this puts her under a lot of stress. Because, unlike her siblings, Nahed was shy and didn’t feel comfortable speaking Turkish with the locals.

Yet, step by step and with her mother’s support, Nahed made friends with other children from host member communities and started to improve her Turkish. But when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and social interactions were scaled-down, this progress was suddenly halted.

“It was challenging for us to adapt to a new life here in Turkey -- my children had to learn a lot. When the pandemic started, my children found themselves isolated at home, having nobody to talk to”, shares Nahed’s mother.

But Nahed did not give up. She gave it another try with the support of IOM Turkey’s Psychosocial Mobile Team—which organized online sessions for vulnerable migrants like Nahed. This initiative helped her and her family to regain access to what they missed most during the pandemic: connections with other people and finding new friends.

Today, Nahed’s mother feels relieved: Due to the activities, Nahed is doing better and is not afraid to interact with locals anymore: “It feels like a different world after the sessions. I actually feel excited about new experiences.” Nahed and her siblings are all in the same class now, studying together to build a better future for themselves. One day, Nahed wants to become a doctor and support her family—as they did when she needed it most.

The online activities were organized within IOM Turkey’s Community-Based Mental Health and Psychosocial Support programme—which offers psychosocial support to Syrian and host community members in Sultangazi, İstanbul. In cooperation with the Sultangazi Municipality, the project team helps identify vulnerable groups, including children affected by the pandemic and offers relevant support to those in need. IOM’s MHPSS programme is funded by the Republic of Korea.