In the Social Cohesion Festivals in Istanbul, Kocaeli, Bursa, Ankara and Şanlıurfa, a total of 513 young people engaged in sports, handicrafts and outdoor activities, spent time together and acquired new skills.

 

Coming together in the Social Cohesion Festivals in 5 provinces, Syrian and Turkish youth had opportunities for learning each other’s cultures and making new friends

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in cooperation with the Japanese NGO Reach Alternatives (REALs) organized Social Cohesion Festivals in Istanbul, Kocaeli, Bursa, Ankara and Şanlıurfa to bring Syrian and Turkish youth together. Between 20 August and 18 September, a total of 513 young people engaged in sports, handicrafts and outdoor activities, spent time together and acquired new skills.

The festivals were organized under the social cohesion component of the initiative aiming to increase access to employment, entrepreneurship opportunities and social integration of young Syrians under Temporary Protection and their Turkish peers, implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, with funding from the Government of Japan.

“Seeing you, the young people, together and witnessing what you learn from one another show us how our project touches the right points,” said Ms. Tuğçe Söğüt, Social Cohesion Projects Coordinator in UNDP Turkey Syria Crisis Response and Resilience Portfolio, meeting youth at the events.

The 3-day festival in Istanbul started with handicrafts and ice-breaker activities, then proceeded with soccer with the teams of female and male Syrian and Turkish youth. On the third day, participants had a nature day at Extreme Park. The Social Cohesion Festival events in Kocaeli and Şanlıurfa provided the young people with opportunities of ice-breaking and joyful times through various sports and handicrafts activities as well.

Prior to the festival on 3-5 September in Bursa, young volunteers visited Syrian families and informed them about the project, invited peers to the events, and shared contact numbers that could be called in case of emergencies.

The Social Cohesion Festival in Ankara started with a folk dances performance, handicrafts, team games and concluded with an activity of social good. Volunteer youth joined hands to paint the school building, build a library and renovate classrooms at Gölbaşı Topaklı Primary School. During this activity jointly organized with Onaranlar Kulübü, a social initiative that develops creative projects to engage in a dialogue with the environment focusing on repair, production and sharing, 38 young people designed and coloured the classrooms and façade of the school, and built a dinosaur-shaped library of their own design and installed it at the school yard.

“Previously, you would not see a Turkish and a Syrian youth together at any Youth Centre. Now, under this project, they spend time together, engage in activities together,” said Mr. Hüseyin Uğur Gültekin, serving as a youth leader at Kocaeli International Youth Centre.  “Such activities help alleviate the war trauma of our Syrian young friends, and allow them to adapt to the Turkish society. It also gives Turkish youth opportunities both to develop themselves and learn about other cultures.”

The activities undertaken by the partnership of UNDP and Ministry of Youth and Sports, with funding from the Government of Japan aim to generate solutions to the problems of Syrian and Turkish youth. The initiative involves efforts to increase the youth’s access to employment opportunities through entrepreneurship support and training on information technologies, and build bridges between cultures through social cohesion activities.

In this context, 403 young people have had opportunities to learn job skills and receive entrepreneurship training to date. Grants of US$350,000 and mentoring support have been provided to 70 young entrepreneurs. UNDP has already set up computer laboratories in 30 youth centres in 9 provinces.

The $3 million initiative, funded by Japan and completed in September 2021, is a part of UNDP Turkey’s broader $75 million portfolio of projects aimed at building self-reliance of Syrian refugees and resilience of host communities by expanding labour market access, improving livelihoods, enhancing public services and building social cohesion.

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