Fatihah Hasbollah has been living in Turkey for almost a decade now, since 2013. She started her years in Turkey as a student, with a two-year language course, followed by a four-year degree programme in Bursa Uludağ Üniversitesi under the religious studies faculty. Currently, the 27-year-old Singaporean is pursuing her Masters in Marmara University, Istanbul with a major in Tafsir.
Fatihah is part of Sg.Turkiye or Singaporean Students in Turkey (STÜR), a Singaporean student-led humanitarian initiative in Turkey.
In 2021, as part of a collaboration with Global Ehsan Relief (GER), STÜR initiated and conducted a winter aid mission alongside the numerous ongoing projects GER has been doing for refugees worldwide.
During the Winter Emergency Appeal trip, our team had the pleasure of having Fatihah along with them during the Turkey leg, who provided her skills as a translator and a valuable volunteer.
After the trip, we caught up with Fatihah to find out more about her experience and some valuable takeaways:
How did you come to be involved with the Winter Aid distributions in Turkey?
I was first approached to assist GER with translating the Turkish language for a project. I saw an opportunity to experience voluntary humanitarian work. I viewed it as a valuable stepping stone to start before embarking on other potential future projects. The main goal was to increase my situational global awareness and provide solutions to render as much help as possible.
What was your experience like and what was the best takeaway?
It was my first time stepping foot in the south of Turkey, which shares borders with Syria. My initial sentiments were totally unexpected. It was truly a humbling experience for me. That small strip of land felt like a totally new country by itself, needing much support and love by others.
Equipped with a background in handling refugee distributions in Bursa, I Immediately began to understand the situation we were working with.
The main challenge was working with different organisations, meeting new people and facing different sets of challenges. It was 3 different cities within 6 days. But the main goals were all the same. To provide support and love for the people. To experience empathy and love and to show kindness to one another. To make a person feel supported when they’ve lost everything they ever had. Here we are just providing basic necessities for them to get through the harsh winter.
What was the most impactful experience?
It broke my heart to see young children sacrifice their youth just to scrape together a living and put bread on the table. These kids lost their opportunity to learn in a safe school environment, to seek knowledge and change their current living conditions. They were thrown into such difficulty at such a young age.
This humbled me and made me grateful for what I have, even for the smallest things I took for granted.
Despite the challenges they faced, these kids always looked on the positive side, having strong faith that they would lead a better life. My job has been completed, for now. Their needs are ongoing, and the passion that ignited after this project sparked the drive to help more people in need in the future.
Indeed, our acts are just a small contribution for their basic necessities to get through the harsh winter, but their huge smiles, hugs, and words of appreciation truly warms my heart.
Our team is truly thankful to have Fatihah along during our Winter Relief journey and to have STÜR on board with us as partners in our efforts to provide the best aid for Refugees.
STÜR had published their Warmth for Refugee project through their network, to garner the funds needed for the aid mission. They also carried out on-site humanitarian work in the middle of December 2021. Through their efforts and with the support of GER, the combined efforts raised over $100,000 for the Warmth for Refugees campaign.
It goes to show that it does not matter where or who you are, everyone is capable of igniting change and creating an important impact in the community. If you are inspired to join us, we welcome you to contribute to our Winter Emergency Appeal, where you will be providing much-needed essentials to one of the most vulnerable groups in the world, during a vulnerable period.