Each fully-furnished living unit in an apartment complex in Gaziantep, a city in southern Turkey near the country’s border with Syria, has furniture, a television, kitchen utensils, a washing machine, closet, desk, and a full bathroom.
The complex is the Muhammad Ali Safe House, a home reserved for Syrian refugee orphans and single mothers, whom Zakat Foundation of America sponsors. The facility features 44 rooms, one family per room — more than 200 individuals — in a city doing everything it can to accommodate the increasing refugee population.
Zakat Foundation of America Outreach Coordinator Abdelhamid Omran visited the safe house in a field visit to Turkey, and he saw the Arabic-speaking children learning Turkish in classrooms and playing with educational toys. Children's classes are taught on the ground floor, as well as Turkish language classes to help Syrian mothers to help them adapt to their new living situation. There is a playground outside for the kids, and women can also take vocational training classes, including sewing, knitting and other in-demand skills so they may get a job and begin walking a path of self-sustainability.
“These people who need help, this is the kind of help they’re getting,” Mr. Omran said. “They’re not getting scraps, they’re not getting pity, they’re not getting people looking down on them.”
It opened after Zakat Foundation of America Executive Director Halil Demir received a call during his trip last year explaining that some of the Syrian orphans had been taken to the hospital because they had been bitten by rats. Mr. Omran said he’s happy to see the work Zakat Foundation of America is doing in the Middle East because even though his expectations were high, the safe house exceeded them.
Mr. Omran viewed a vacant unit. Zakat Foundation of America staff members do not intrude on safe house residents.
“One thing I was told: The most they’ll do is knock on the door, but they’ll never actually go in because they respect the privacy of the family, and once that family lives in that home, it’s their home now,” Omran said.
The sun was setting as Mr. Omran was leaving. It was getting dark, a bus pulled up, and children got off of it. Mr. Omran said he could sense that they didn’t feel like they’re in a bad situation.
“They didn’t feel like they’re taking handouts,” he said. “They didn’t feel like when you give somebody something and you help them with something, but then you constantly remind them about it and you constantly bring it up. I did not get that feeling from them. I got that feeling like, ‘We’re here but with our dignity, we’re happy, and this is what Allah has given us.’”
The Muhammad Ali Safe House is a place for Syrian refugees to transition from living through a war to integrating into society. Zakat Foundation of America wants to give them the opportunity to improve their lives while giving them peace of mind, and it’s through your generosity that refugees can have the chance to live safely and comfortably while creating better lives for themselves.