07 Jan 2015
Regardless of whether we live off a modest English language teacher’s wage, have acquired a holiday apartment on these shores by investing our savings or are on a multinational corporation’s payroll, we expatriates all fare well financially, relatively speaking. We have a roof over our heads, clothing to keep us warm, a table on which to eat at least one square meal per day — probably more — and many other items we would consider nothing but standard anywhere we live. And we can go places because we want to, not because a civil war forces us to do so! Think refugee status: forced to leave one’s homeland, no material possessions to take along, no plastic card limits to max out either to see you through the next month or perhaps even an entire winter. It is assumed that 1.6 million Syrian refugees have by now made their way to the Republic of Turkey. But the majority of them are not housed in camps provided by the Turkish government — not because Ankara would not want to offer as much humanitarian aid as it possibly can but because the numbers of new arrivals are simply too high. And let us not forget that whilst many other countries’ leaders applaud Turkey for its immense support and aid, few if any wire funds to share the economic burden. International solidarity: on paper, yes; facilitated by paper money, unfortunately not! This article is a plea for action, action we ordinary people can get involved in. And as international visitors, travelers, holidaymakers, workers or residents we should become the grassroots movement in all of this. And it works. When the crisis broke out in neighboring Syria many expats rolled up their sleeves at once and started collecting clothes and toys for those crossing into Turkey. Expats all over the country donated whatever they could manage to do without, and not just donating “old” stuff; far from it. Second-hand clothes had to be in mint condition, washed and ironed. Toys in perfect working condition! I know of restaurant managers offering their basements as storage points. I heard of real estate agents who then organized the vans and lorries to transport the donations to the border region. That was then, but our idealism is required ever more urgently. And chances are that wherever you may live, hundreds if not thousands of refugees are trying to survive, too. Hence, help is not only needed in the border towns but right next to us as well. Thus said we expats have a moral duty to find out how we can help again, together with our Turkish neighbors of course. Unless you wish to organize your very own event and pass on the items collected to your town hall for further distribution, you may establish contact with an already registered charity of your choice and then ask all your fellow expat friends and colleagues to start emptying the attic, or probably more correctly, initially, their wardrobes. Social media helps to get in touch with each other. Visiting your local expat association (and there are many indeed!) makes sense. Asking your favorite restaurant to add a table-top sale or clothes-drop-off tea time onto their calendar of events could kick-start something even bigger. When I wrote “moral duty” above I did not want to sound patronizing, not at all. What I have in mind is that we share the same earth, and when some of us are in distress we simply must allow the best in all of us to come out and lend a hand. Small-scale international solidarity? Perhaps. Long-term impact? Very tangible.