The Colourful Hopes Association (Rengarenk Umutlar Derneği) (Rengarenk Umutlar Derneği-RUMUD), one of our grantees for the Covid-19 Emergency Support Fund, had to find innovative outreach solutions to reach out to the children they work with during Covid-19 in the absence of physical meetings. The association develops and implements socio-cultural and socio-psychological projects in order to provide equal cultural and social opportunities for children and women who are affected from the conflicts in the Sur-Diyarbakır region. RUMUD organizes many workshops on drama, choir, art, gender equality, respect for differences with about 200 children in a year.
Please see below the interview with the Colourful Hopes Association about their activities during Covid-19.
Children are among the groups most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Can you share with us your observations on how the children you work with and their families are being affected from the pandemic?
Following the measures taken regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, we started carrying out all our work from home since March 12th. During this period, we had several internal discussions about how to stay in contact with the children we work with. We prepared online forms so that our beneficiaries between the ages of 8-16 can share their mental state, physical conditions, expectations and feelings during the outbreak. We had to reach the children who did not have access to the online form via telephone.
The feedback we received from 115 children was that when the quarantine and curfew started, they had trouble making sense of the process and they felt insecure, anxious, bored and bad. What happened in this process reminded them the long-term curfews (in 2015-2016) announced for security reasons. It increased their anxieties and triggered the trauma they experienced in the past. We also saw that children were negatively affected by the sudden changes such as staying at home, not being able to go out, even to school. In addition, the vast majority of children stated that they could not follow the Education Information Network (Eğitim Bilişim Ağı – EBA), which was developed by the Ministry of Education to continue education during the outbreak, or that the EBA method was not suitable for them.
A recent interview with our partner the Support Foundation for Civil Society, you mentioned that children had limited access to the Internet in the Sur region and due to these conditions you will continue working with them via teleconferencing throughout the pandemic. Based on your experiences, can you tell us about the positive and negative aspects of continuing your work with this method?
In line with the emerging needs during the outbreak, we sought new methods to continue our work. We created new activities to support children staying at home, as well as new programs to meet their emerging needs. One of the programs we prepared is the “Teleconference Psychosocial Support”.
We conducted various activities with families and children, such as psychosocial support and life skills development workshops, art activities and story readings via teleconference. We have collected feedback from the children and their families at the beginning of the pandemic and at the end of the third month of the teleconference activities. We will publish a short report on these feedbacks soon.
The most positive aspect of reaching children via teleconferencing was that we were able to continue our connection with them which made them feel less lonely throughout this process. At the same time, by predicting that this process will last a long period and by quickly identifying our alternatives we were able to take early action to adapt our work to emerging conditions, which has been a positive development for us.
The biggest challenge we faced was regarding our beneficiaries’ limited access to the Internet and communication tools. This challenge led us to search for different solutions to continue our work with the children.
Colourful Hopes Association are among the organizations that received a grant from our COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund with the co-financing of the Turkey Mozaik Foundation. Can you tell us about the work you plan to do within the scope of this grant?
Since the outbreak and quarantine process began, many civil society organizations (CSOs) and initiatives have developed various support mechanisms for their beneficiaries through online tools. However, in our interviews with the families of the children we work with, we came across the fact that 90% of them do not have access to the Internet and digital tools. Under these circumstances, teleconference has proven to be the best way we could reach out to the children, thus we changed our work accordingly. However, we also realized that this method had its shortcomings as it was limited to hearing voices. The children repeatedly shared that they wanted to see both the facilitators and their friends. Especially when they started to express their longing feelings frequently, we started to search for an alternative solution.
With the grant support we received from the COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund, we aim to establish a radio link system to provide unlimited Internet access for 115 children living in the Sur district. With radio link transmitters to be installed in certain areas of the 4 neighbourhoods we work in, we will solve the problem of Internet access and implement the above-mentioned program activities in a more effective and healthy way by using digital platforms that will be accessible to all children we work with.
We are seeing that disadvantaged and vulnerable groups are being affected more by the COVID-19 outbreak. It is also expected that the inequalities will increase and also become more visible during this period. Can you share with us your reflections on the impact of the outbreak on children and children’s rights?
Serious violations against the development and protection of children’s rights already existed before the outbreak. As you mentioned, the outbreak made these violations more visible. Under the current circumstances children’s need were not met and during the outbreak these challenges diversified and increased.
Reports shared by CSOs and the Bar Associations show that cases of sexual exploitation, abuse and violence against children significantly increased during the quarantine period. The situation is very similar in terms of all children’s rights.
We believe that urgent measures should be taken to effectively protect all rights of children, including the right to protection from abuse and neglect, the right to housing, the right to food, the right to education, the right to play, the right to internet, and the right to equal access to services during and after the outbreak.
As the Colourful Hopes Association you recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign. Can you tell us about your experiences with the campaign and your expectations from donors and grant making organizations in the upcoming period?
In times of crisis that require urgent support such as the COVID-19 outbreak, earthquakes, forced migrations and wars, any attempt to support the emerging needs of CSOs are very valuable. Before the outbreak, in similar emergency situations or disasters, we observed that communities in Turkey are able to establish solidarity networks quickly in the times of emergencies.
As we mentioned above, the psychosocial support by teleconferencing project we developed as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been a working model aiming to eliminate the inequality caused by lack of internet access for the children we work with. In order to start this project, we first needed the resources to provide the stationery for children and deliver to them safely. At this point, we thought that the best way to move forward would be to create create a solidarity network through an online campaign that will attract individual resources. Thus, we launched our crowdfunding campaign titled “Solidarity to Stay Home” at Fongogo and we quickly collected the resources we needed.
We believe that crowdfunding is very important for the supply of materials needed by the beneficiaries or the resources needed for rights-based work. This method also provides an efficient way for donors to reach the beneficiaries directly. In organising a crowdfunding campaign, the most critical issue is the internal capacity of the CSO. As a matter of fact, the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the campaign is directly affected by the capacity of the CSO.
In times of crisis, it is very important for CSOs to ask for support to cover their own needs, to quickly determine the emerging needs of their beneficiaries and to access the necessary resources in order to meet them. At the same time, it becomes very important to explain the needs of the CSO or the beneficiaries clearly and accurately to individual donors.
Grantmaking organisations also need to diversify their funding models in the face of differing needs of their grantees. We would like to thank the Support Foundation for Civil Society and the Turkey Mozaik Foundation for diversifying their support and opening up space in order to meet the urgent needs of CSOs. We consider this support invaluable and hope it will inspire other grantmakers.