Destinations: Izmir, Cesme
Distance travelled: 176
Recipes collected: 3
Our week of volunteering with ReVi! It is all about visiting Syrian families living in Izmir. Whether they came a year ago or yesterday, ReVi helps them in any way they can. Two days a week, the volunteers visit new families that either newly arrived in the area or were recently added onto the list. We were part of these visits, drinking tea or coffee with the people and bringing gifts for the kids – balloons, paper and crayons, and bubbles. Each group was accompanied by an arab speaking volunteer, since most family members did not speak any turkish or english. We kindly asked them to describe their situation, health, issues and requests. We promised we would come back two days later, hopefully with something that helps.
It was not easy getting to know people that just fled their country and now live in safer, but better (?) conditions. They live cramped, in small apartments, no furniture, maybe an oven to heat and some gas to cook on. They have no work, or badly paid work, if paid at all. Some families are sick, with huge medical bills to pay (but how???) Some are still scared for their lives. They don’t know how to survive without help. Even though they made it out of the war zone, their fight is not over.
Yes, sure, it was tough, but it was still really fun, playing with children and holding babies. Climbing up and down the narrow streets of Izmir and enjoying the view. Emka* was invited to lunch by a syrian family. Ia and Emma, a ReVi volunteer, went as well. The father in the family is an amazing cook and really good at transforming the arabic recipes into vegan dishes. It was more like a cooking lesson, showing them how to prepare and cook the dishes.
It felt good to be part of something beautiful like the work of ReVi. We got to know a great network of volunteers from all over the world. We really connected with like minded people and made more friends. Another (M)eat-up was planned, completely vegan this time. The event took place at Kapilar Community Center, very close to ReVi center. Again, the group was culturally very diverse with our new friends from ReVi and fellow couchsurfers. The beauty in the hosting place was that we all set outside on the patio. We set out a couple of beer tables, enough for everyone to sit comfortably and eat. As always, the (M)eat-up was wonderful, just perfect!
Every Sunday, ReVi volunteers go to eat with syrian families. There are usually two dinners, a vegetarian and one with meat. We all signed up for the veggie one, but our group was too big in the end, so Yannic and Nina switched groups. The vegetarian group went back to the family, emka* and Ia were cooking with just a few days ago. The family had prepared a huge amount of food, at least 15 dishes only one being not vegan. We were eating and eating, not able to stop, because it was so good. When we did try to stop, they just gave us more. We all ate as much as we could, tried everything and ate some more when they brought cay and dessert out. After dinner we painted our faces, played UNO and took a lot of photos.
The next day Ia, Yannic and Doro went to Cesme, a small town west of Izmir, to visit an NGO and interview the founder. Cesme is a really touristy area, but was quite dead now in off-season. In the last two years, it was the place where all the ships with refugees left from, to go to Europe, and brought back to shore. It is the place where a lot of people drowned and kids found dead by the beach. Nothing displayed the tragic scenes that happened around here frequently just a couple months ago. During the interview with Ali, we learned that the number of boats crossing to Europe decreased drastically after the deal with Europe. He told us about the massive workload they have as the only refugee organisation in the Çeşme region and about the sometimes unrealistic hopes that refugees have for Europe. Ali gave us great insight on the situation with the unofficial camps in the region, which always have to move if someone complains about them and which range from well set-up little villages to crappy tents in mud. After the interview we got to know the whole international Imece crew which sleeps in the backroom of the cafe in very confined space. They showed us the goods they provide the refugees with and bags that refugees crafted and which they are selling for them. (https://www.facebook.com/imeceinisiyatifi/)
We had an eventful week and each of us enjoyed it very much!