Ever since I started getting involved with GiveLight Foundation, my life has changed in so many ways; it has more direction and purpose. I look forward to finding opportunities where my family can be a part of the GiveLight cause. This past year we were planning a vacation overseas, and decided to go to Istanbul, Turkey.
I contacted Dian and checked with her if there were any GiveLight homes in Istanbul. I had heard many beautiful accounts of the GiveLight team going to the Turkey/Syrian border. Dian got back to me and immediately connected me with her GL point person there, Brother Imad. Once we landed in Istanbul we set up a day to visit the Hanan Center.
The Hanan Center is an after school program that collaborates with GiveLight and supports over 100 orphans in the Fatih District, a conservative district in the bustling city of Istanbul. You could hear the recitation of the Quran, the Fatih mosque in the center, and see families walking around fulfilling their daily needs.
We met Brother Imad at the courtyard of the mosque after prayer. He educated us on the area, letting us know that most Syrians live in this part of Istanbul and that they have built a community there for themselves. You will find a lot of Syrian food and shops. The Hanan Center was right in the heart of the community. When we entered, we were given a tour of the center.
Sister Emel, the school director, informed us of the types of classes that supported survival skills for the students. The classes included Quran, Art, Turkish, Arabic, English, Computer Skills, Math and Science. The students would come there after school and supplement what they had learned. The teachers were not only supporting them academically, but also emotionally. The Hanan Center was a safe haven for many of the students. Volunteers, teachers and specialists would help the students thrive in the Turkish schools, deal with adapting to a new life and working through PTSD for some of the students.
After our tour of the center, the children arrived from school. You could hear their excitement and feel their happiness as they walked in through this center. It was like a home away from home. The teachers hugged and greeted every student. They shyly embraced us as well. As soon as our eyes locked with theirs there was an immediate connection.
As we ate with them, they laughed and shared their stories about what they did in school, how they got home, and what they liked to do. Most of them were almost fluent in Turkish and were at the top of their classes in school. You felt like you were truly in the company of giants. The children humbled us so much. We were at a complete loss for words. Their strength and determination to strive and survive was almost palpable in the room. We parted with hugs as the kids went home and thanked the center for graciously allowing us to spend the afternoon with them.
As we left the center we were overcome with sadness. Our hearts refused to part ways with the beautiful souls we were so fortunate to have met. We decided to sit in the courtyard of the grand 2 Fatih mosque and find comfort in the recitation of the noble Quran. Observing the crowd and feeling the calming breeze provided immediate tranquility. The reciter then began reciting surah Maryam, verse 33 where Prophet Isa (as) declares: “Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised alive!” The verse struck a deep chord, reminding us of the resilience of the orphan. That after all the hardships they witness, they still remain hopeful in finding peace.
Emal and Yosra Nasiri
Date of travel: September 2019