Stories
04 Jul 2021
By: Begüm Başaran

"I was emotionally exhausted; I felt useless because I lived in the past. I was a sports instructor and couldn't stop thinking about my trainees. I didn't have the energy to do anything. But, after this activity, I finally felt recharged", these are the words of Salahaddin, a Syrian refugee who lives with his two children and his wife in Şanlıurfa, Turkey.

In 2017, Salahaddin lost his walking ability after shrapnel from an explosion pierced his spinal cord. In addition, he couldn't get to the hospital for four days after the accident, which worsened his wound. He decided to move to Turkey with his family after the tragedy, but due to economic reasons, they managed to do it only three years later, in 2020. "It was a relief: we tried to run away from bombings all the time, and, finally, after ten years of conflict, we were in a safe place," Salahaddin said.

When Salahaddin was 14 years old, he dropped out of school to support his family. He started to work as an odd-job man and a sports trainer at a gym. "I miss the good old days. My happiest memories are about our family dinners and my time with my mother and siblings. Life for us was stable and secure", he recalls.

When they arrived in Turkey, they felt secure, but at the same time, it was very hard for them to adjust: they didn't know anyone and had to overcome all obstacles on their own. "Because of COVID-19, there have been lockdowns, but people like me always live in a "lockdown": I'm always at home, I can't go out regularly. I prefer to go out when there are fewer people outside because people try to avoid me", he said.

One day Salahaddin learned about "the Sports Club for People of Determination" event and decided to participate. It was organized by IOM Turkey's Psychosocial Support Mobile Teams for people with disabilities in wheelchairs like Salahaddin. Salahaddin had a chance to meet new people, socialize, and find an opportunity to get back to his favorite job as a sports trainer. Now he creates videos for his friends to train them online, motivate and encourage.

Salahaddin may have a chance to walk again: doctors say there's a 50 per cent chance for a successful surgery. "Even one per cent of possibility was enough for me, and 50 per cent is way more than that", tells Salahaddin, full of hopes that one day he can walk again.

Today, he organizes sports events like ping pong tournaments for his friends. He is convinced that it is necessary to make an effort to see the positive side of life and says that it makes everything more meaningful.