10 July 2021 – A “volunteerism webinar” organized today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Turkey, with the support of serving national UN Volunteers, brought together 120 Turkish and Syrian young people to discuss opportunities to contribute to the greater good through volunteering. The event was part of a project funded by Japan and implemented with the Ministry of Youth and Sports aimed improving life prospects for young Syrian refugees and their Turkish peers. Young people make up half of the 3.7 million Syrian refugees enjoying temporary protection in Turkey.
Webinar participants learned about the youth centers that the Ministry of Youth and Sports operates in all 81 provinces of Turkey. “Our aim is to make young people more aware of local and universal problems and encourage them to be part of the solution,” explained Van İpekyolu District Youth Leader Seda Akyürek. Participants also heard about the basics of volunteering from UN Volunteers, the UN entity that currently engages 9,400 volunteers worldwide. “By engaging those furthest behind, volunteering can bring us closer to the Sustainable Development Goals,” noted UNV Country Coordinator Nil Memişoğlu. “Volunteering softens the heart, increases compassion,” said Arif Muştu, Director of Volunteer Management, in outlining the humanitarian work of the Turkish Red Crescent Society.
The webinar was held online owing to pandemic restrictions. However, participants also had ample opportunity to engage firsthand in volunteer work. Eight volunteer activities organized in five provinces in June and July 2021 helped 286 young people to forge new friendships and learn new skills while doing good deeds. Working through the youth centers in Ankara, Bursa, Istanbul, Kocaeli and Şanlıurfa, UNDP Turkey brought together mixed groups of Turkish and Syrian young people to plant trees, paint village schools, set up libraries, visit animal shelters and make food and water containers for street animals. Participants said the activities had helped them gain self-confidence and feel more comfortable in exploring different cultures.
UNDP’s efforts to promote volunteering are part of a larger project, “Employability, Entrepreneurship and Social Cohesion for Syrian and Turkish Youth.” In addition to activities aimed at overcoming war trauma and promoting social cohesion, Syrian and Turkish young people will have opportunities to learn job skills and receive entrepreneurship training.
USD 350,000 in grant support and focused mentoring will be provided to 70 young entrepreneurs. UNDP has already set up computer labs in 30 youth centers in nine provinces.
The USD 3 million Japan-funded initiative, launched in September 2020, is part of UNDP Turkey’s broader USD 75 million portfolio of projects aimed at building the self-reliance of Syrian refugees and the resilience of host communities by expanding labor market access, improving livelihood opportunities, enhancing public services and building social cohesion.
For more information:
Faik Uyanık, Head of Communications, UNDP Turkey, email@example.com
Ruşen İnceoğlu, Communications Officer, Syria Crisis Response and Resilience Programme, UNDP Turkey, firstname.lastname@example.org
Aydan Özkil, UN Volunteers Turkey Programme, email@example.com