A Warm Meal for a Refugee

Rachel Chimits

Many families, especially refugees, are struggling against food and job scarcity right now, but World Challenge partners in Turkey are working to offer a helping hand.

Ayça Tekin-Koru, professor of economics and writer for VoxEU, has explored an oft-undiscussed area of concern that the coronavirus pandemic is causing: the plight of refugees.

Studying Turkey, she noted, “Right before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Syrian refugee problem was at the top of the national agenda. Considering that Turkey hosts more registered Syrian refugees than any other country in the world, there is a deafening silence in regards to the refugees both in the rescue packages of the government and the major media outlets in Turkey in the recent weeks….

“Syrian refugees suffer from a lack of stable job opportunities. Informality is rampant. Many men have a hard time to secure a job or have to accept lower wages or – worse – work in hazardous conditions to make a living. Women’s labour force participation is tragically low at 9%. Cuevas et al. (2019) report that 45% of the Syrian refugees live in poverty and 14 percent live under extreme poverty. About 25% of children younger than five years of age are malnourished.”

These are issues that World Challenges’ partners in Turkey already know all too well.

Loving the Neighborhood in Hard Times

People in all areas of the world are feeling the impact of COVID-19 on local economies, but for those who were already in vulnerable positions, national fiscal trouble can put a serious pinch on their already limited resources. Many who have resourcefully survived so far are finding that jobs and small-business opportunities are shrinking alarmingly.

On statistics for Syrian refugees in Turkey, Brookings reported, “One study found that 63% and 53% of those surveyed encountered difficulties in reaching food and in meeting hygiene conditions, respectively.

“Another 48% and 65%, respectively, reported problems in accessing online education and paying their rent or utility bills. This picture is further exacerbated by a dramatic drop in access to work. According to another survey, 69% of refugees have reported a loss of employment while many Syrian-owned businesses have suspended their activities partially or fully.”

World Challenge has offered a COVID grant to our partners to help their communities, and our Turkish partners have dedicated themselves to reaching those refugees who have been badly affected by current events.

One team member explained, “We found a local Syrian market that sells Syrian products which the refugees are used to back home. The man, who is a Muslim, was very cooperative and gave us access to his wholesale market to get the same items at a cheaper price, so we were able to purchase more with our budget.

“We prepared 50 big boxes of food, each with 27 items that would support a family for a month at least. The Syrian market owner was very cooperative, and the Lord gave us favor in his eyes so that he opened his warehouse to store all the items we bought. We packed it in his warehouse and kept it there until our guys came back and took the boxes for distribution.”

An Intervention of Blessing

For many Syrian refugee families, these meal boxes have been a great blessing.

“I can’t describe the happiness it was for everyone,” Our partner said. “Some called me afterwards and were crying. Almost everyone had no food in their houses, and this aid was the largest they had ever received. Many believers were encouraged to see the Lord providing for their needs, especially since this help came from other believers in a wonderful display of the love we have in Christ.”

The team is currently taking stock of their resources and church members in need. “I think we can support more families in our next distribution next month,” our partner joyfully explained. “I would say 75 families or so, plus children!

“Thank you so much for your partnership, and I’m very grateful for the Lord providing World Challenge and their intervention at the right time.”