Supporting each other… Online

The effects of the spread of COVID 19 pandemic took a lot of people in Turkey by surprise as many lost their jobs and others’ wellbeing deteriorated because of the lockdown measures implemented in the country. Migrants and refuges are among the vulnerable populations in Turkey that have been most affected by the situation as they face challenges in getting jobs and securing incomes for their families.
Aicha’s is a Syrian lady whose husband used to work in a shoe factory before the pandemic. The couple was able to cover their basic needs before her husband Radwan lost his job due to the scaling down of operations. They started borrowing money to pay their rent and buy food, which created a lot of stress and anxiety for them. Additionally, the news about their families poor wellbeing in Syria and their need for financial due to the recent economic crisis in Syria also affected Aicha mentally. “When you are in a time like this, you need to talk to your family members, but their situation makes you feel completely helpless,” she said. 

In response to the needs of vulnerable people like Aicha, IOM created activities on WhatsApp for women from both host and refugee communities to provide a safe space for them to express themselves freely and get the psychological support they needed while keeping physical distance. “Many migrants’ wellbeing is at risk because they are unaware of their own psychological state of mind,” said Selin, an IOM psychologist. “Some get stressed without knowing the reason. This is why it was important to continue with the sessions online.” 

IOM is using focus group discussions and creating games to let the participants to be able to identify their sources of anxiety and help them face them. Aicha began painting and expressing herself more as way of releasing some of her negative feelings that were building up inside her. 

“Before the sessions started, I felt like I was alone since I was not able to mingle with other people in the neighborhood due to the language barriers,” she said. “The sessions gave me a space to know new people and feel relieved. I was able to control my feelings and listening to others made me realize that I wasn’t the only one going through this situation.”

The lockdown restrictions have been eased and things are gradually getting back to normal. Aicha’s husband is back at work and the family is re planning their future. “I am going to learn Turkish to be more integrated into the host community and I am planning to have children. The time of the COVID 19 outbreak helped me realize a lot of things I wasn’t aware of. Thanks to the sessions, I feel more resilient towards any future challenges.”