• Mehmet Boran | Senior Communications Assistant

"He is always drawing with pen and paper. He loves painting, and his imagination is very strong." 

Muna's eyes light up when she talks about her dream for her youngest son Fajr, who has Down syndrome. 

In 2020, when she arrived in Kilis, Türkiye, from Aleppo, Syria, many uncertainties awaited her. As a 39-year-old young mother of seven children, it was not easy to face all the challenges. 

To her, the most important thing was for her children to continue their education. Upon a friend's suggestion, Muna met with the International Organization for Migration (IOM)'s education counsellor at the Kilis Municipal Migrant and Community Centre (MMCC). 

One of six nationwide, the Kilis MMCC is run by IOM and the Kilis Municipality. It aims to connect migrants and refugees to needed services, including counselling on education opportunities, as well as promote social cohesion in communities. 

After receiving support at the centre, Muna found a suitable option for her seven children. “Since my children do not speak Turkish, they attended accelerated education for a year, last year. Now, they are studying remotely and taking exams. They will be able to enrol in school next year." 

Worried about her son Fajr's education, Muna turned to IOM for support. Photo: IOM/Mehmet Boran

Muna, however, needed further assistance for six-year-old Fajr. She was delighted after learning about the special education support offered by IOM.  

"When I first came to IOM, I had no idea what we could do for Fajr. The counsellor told me about the support offered for children with special educational needs. I was very happy to learn that even free transportation was offered." 

Now, Fajr is enrolled in the special education programme, attending courses twice a week and visiting a specialised centre two hours a week. 

"This programme is a customized version of education normally given at schools, tailored to children with diverse needs,” explains Doğan Isimtekin, IOM’s Education Counsellor at the Kilis MMCC. “It includes individual education, physical therapy, and speech and language therapy. Teachers also teach students how to acquire social life skills.” 

Muna has noticed the positive changes in Fajr since he started the programme. 

"Fajr never listened to us before, but he has changed a lot. His teachers say that he is a very social child. He likes to have fun. When he listens to a song, he comes home cheerful."  

Now overcoming his speech disability, Khalid enjoys going to school. Photo: IOM/Mehmet Boran

In Gaziantep, ten-year-old Khalid is benefitting from the same programme. 

He and his family arrived in Türkiye in 2016, fleeing the harsh conditions in their homeland, Syria. He was only three years old at the time. 

His early years were marked by a significant challenge: a speech disability. Seeking solutions, Khalid’s parents learned about support offered by IOM for children with speech difficulties. 

Through this, Khalid was enrolled in a speech therapy centre, which he has now been visiting for over two years. 

“Khalid has made remarkable progress,” expresses his mother. With his newfound skills and sense of responsibility, he is actively helping his mother with household chores. 

Khalid wants to be a policeman in the future. Photo: IOM/Mehmet Boran

“I dream of seeing Khalid achieve wonderful things in the future. I want him to become a lawyer or a doctor," says his mother. 

Unlike his mother though, Khalid expresses his desire to become a policeman – a testament to his growing self-confidence. 

Meanwhile, Muna sees her son becoming a painter one day. "In the future, I want Fajr to live as an independent person. I will not be with him all the time, so I wish him to be strong.” 

Despite seeing their children face challenging childhoods, Fajr’s and Khalid’s parents are now more hopeful than ever. 

A part of its Protection and Resilience programming, IOM provides access to education for migrants and refugees and implements specific programming for children with disabilities to support adaptation and long-term development. IOM’s education programmes further aim to remove barriers to education for all children in Türkiye, including supporting refugee children with disabilities to enrol in regular schools. In 2023, IOM supported the enrolment of 171 children in special education. 

Written by Mehmet Boran, IOM Türkiye Senior Communications Associate