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Turkey: Volunteers find ‘service is love’

In 2009 JRS began work in Turkey, in agreement with a local non-governmental organization: the KADER-Chaldean Assyrian Humanitarian Organisation. Turkey is both a destination and major crossroads for refugees from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia who are hoping to reach Europe or awaiting resettlement. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
Friday, February 15, 2013

(Ankara, Turkey) February 15, 2013 — Jesuit Refugee Service in Ankara owes a debt of gratitude to 20 expat volunteers who on a regular basis volunteer their time and donate items to the JRS project. In the last month alone, JRS received almost 200 brand new blankets, 30 brand new jackets and 50 used jackets. The response to a call for two wheelchairs was answered within two hours. 

Currently two volunteers are preparing a special English language program for the needs of refugees who will shortly be resettled. The program is essential to meet the needs of the refugees in first their first days upon arrival to their new homes. We also see more and more the involvement of amazing Turkish people who help quietly but very considerable.

Recently two volunteers shared their reflections with us. The first is below, and the second will be published Sunday.

Living in turkey is such a huge opportunity for me. It is a big adventure that I never expected at this point of my life, but it wasn't until I began to volunteer at the Refugee Center that I felt that there was a particular reason for me to be here. It is wonderful for me to have something so meaningful to do with my life. I believe this opportunity is a gift from God to me, to bless my life and make me a better person.

I believe that one of the reasons we have each been blessed with life is to learn to love. It is easy to love one's family and close friends, but to have a chance to learn to love people that outwardly are so different in their background is truly a blessing. To discover that someone who a few years ago, I might have regarded with suspicion or as an enemy has all of the same emotions, fears and loves as I do, has been transforming for me.

My students are funny, sweet, kind people who find themselves caught up in terrible difficulty. They are nearly powerless to determine their own destiny, victims of politics and power. It is very humbling to see them trying so hard to improve themselves with language and art training, and trying to help one another as well.

I am awed by their resilience and strength, even in the face of tremendous trials. I love being with them, and have developed strong friendships with my students.

Jesus said, "If ye do it unto one of the least of these, you do it unto me.” Service is love and I am learning a great deal about love at the Refugee Center. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this great work.

by Annette Stacy of Salt Lake City

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