On Wednesday 2nd of May we were delighted to welcome the Hon Mr Christopher Patrick Hayes, Australian federal member for Fowler and chief opposition whip of the Australian Labor Party, and Ms Tamsin Sanderson from the Australian Embassy in Ankara. Our honourable guests received a warm welcome upon arrival by SPI staff and members from the Syrian community and were served traditional Syrian desserts, tea and coffee prepared by the Syrian women who work in the kitchens at SPI.
Our guests were delighted to hear from founder Karyn Thomas and board member Shannon Kay the story of SPI, from humble origins, playing with children in a park five years ago to currently providing multiple services and programs at our 5 storey community center building. Karyn and Shannon also explained the need that led to the foundation of SPI and how we grew with the help of our project partners and private supporters who felt they needed to contribute something to help those from war-torn countries.
Our guests were very excited to be at our center and to learn more about the programs and services we offer and the problems we encounter as an organisation. They were curious and sympathetic about the difficulties the refugee community face on a daily basis and how their lives can be made easier through the work of SPI and other similar NGOs. This lead to fruitful discussions about what services we could provide to the refugee community using funds from a generous grant we recently received from the Australian Embassy in Turkey. By the end of the visit, we had agreed that the grant will be used to pilot an integration program to bring together the Turkish and Syrian Communities in the district where SPI operates by building bridges at all levels.
At the end of their visit, our guests asked members of the refugee community, particularly Syrians, about their experience settling in in Istanbul and what the future holds for them. Although the answers varied, with some members of the community telling of negative experiences, the answers were overwhelmingly positive, with an overall hope of trying to build a new life in Turkey.
The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria. More than 465,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting, over a million injured, and over 12 million - half the country's prewar population - have been displaced.