RUMUD reaches out to children using innovative methods

Colourful Hopes Association (Rengarenk Umutlar Derneği – RUMUD), one of our 2020 Children’s Fund grantees, is one of the recipients of our Covid-19  Emergency Fund. At the beginning of the outbreak, RUMUD conducted a survey with 115 children and their families in order to determine their current situation and needs. As a result of this survey, the association reached the conclusion that children’s traumas were revived because the outbreak process resembles the armed conflict and curfews that took place in Diyarbakır in the past. RUMUD aimed to use this grant to strengthen the Internet infrastructure of the Sur neighbourhood with a radio link system that required hardware installation for Internet access. RUMUD implemented the Psycho-Social Support Program with teleconference which is a multiple connection method for regular telephone lines without internet. The children were divided according to age groups and the contents of the workshops which consist of art, music, fairy tales, crafts, and games. The developmental characteristics of the children in different age groups were taken into account when these workshops were prepared. Overall, 115 children in three different age groups attended the workshops 6 days a week in June and July.

Please see below our interview with RUMUD with regards to the challenges of Covid-19 era and how they tackled them.

Colourful Hopes Association (Rengarenk Umutlar Derneği – RUMUD) completed the psycho-social workshops with the teleconference method. You also published an evaluation report on the results of the workshops. Can you tell us about your experiences in this process and the highlights from the evaluation report you published?

In the interviews we had in the first month of the outbreak, we observed that the situation triggered the children’s past traumas, there was an increase in domestic violence, children lost their right to play outdoors and had almost no access to education. Since we could no longer meet with the children in our association office (where they usually spent time together), we decided to reach them using the teleconference method. With this project, we aimed to prevent children from feeling lonely, to help them overcome the process with as little psychological damage as possible, and to reduce the negative effects of their past traumas. As a result of the 6-month teleconference project consisting of art and culture activities, fairy tale readings, game hours, competitions, and psychosocial studies; children spent their time in this period more effectively. We received positive results and feedback as a result of this project about the increase in the children’s reading time, maintaining a peaceful atmosphere at home, increase in the peaceful self-expression of the children; strengthening of the communication among the family members, and a decrease in the traumatic effects.

Based on your observations in the region after the Izmir Earthquake, you have prepared a joint report with the Boğaziçi University Social Service Club, the Idea and Art Workshop Association Child Rights Centre and the Deep Poverty Network by assessing the disaster response efforts on the basis of children’s rights. Can you tell us about the findings of this report?

In every situation where children are involved, we must consider how their rights are affected. We prepared the report on the Izmir earthquake with this perspective along with other civil society organisations. The earthquake itself was an experience that deeply affected people, especially given the outbreak. These issues became our main motivation in preparing this report.  In this report we have made suggestions on short-term interventions for ensuring coordination in the disaster area and establishing human rights-based support mechanisms that will help the relatives of children who lost their lives; became injured, disabled, or experienced a loss. In the medium and long term, we have made recommendations on providing legal support, conducting impact studies for social service mechanisms, and establishing inclusive and supportive social service practices for groups who are excluded or have difficulty in accessing their rights and freedoms.

RUMUD was one of the beneficiaries of the grant we have provided under the COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund with the co-financing of the Turkey Mozaik Foundation. How did you use this grant and in what ways did it contribute to your ongoing work?

When the outbreak started, we first conducted research to determine the current conditions and needs of children. We reached the conclusion that the traumas of children resembled the process they were exposed to before. At home, the children had disputes and discussions that turned into physical violence due to their large and multi-child family structure. We also found out that they spent most of their time watching television because they did not have access to the Internet and therefore education. We concluded that children needed psychosocial support in this acute situation and we needed to contact them quickly. However, we were aware that we could not physically be together under the existing conditions and we also knew that we could not reach them with online tools since not all families had internet access. Based on these circumstances, we decided to use teleconferencing which is a multi-connection method for the push-button phones and children were able to participate by using their parents’ phone at home. We prepared the Psycho-social Support Workshops with the teleconference method which consists of fun activities with families in line with the needs of children. With this project, we developed several workshops on art, music, fairy tales, and games. We started our work with the participation of 18 volunteer trainers in total. However, the whole team did not have the necessary equipment to do this work from home. In order to complete this work, we organised capacity-building activities for our volunteers and team. By purchasing the technical equipment we need, we have increased the quality of the workshops.

The Online Support for Children in Outbreak project was interrupted due to the inadequacies in the technical infrastructure at the Sur area. In light of these developments, do you have other plans to increase children’s internet access and thus enable them to benefit from online activities?  Are there other methods you plan to use at this time?

Conducting the teleconference workshops was quite difficult for us. The children and even the project team needed to see each other in order to carry out the activities. To tackle this challenge, we wanted to provide internet services for the residents of the disadvantaged neighbourhoods because we believe that it is a fundamental need and right in order to access information, especially in this period. However, this planned installation could not be realized due to the technical infrastructure problems caused by the physical conditions and historical structure of the neighbourhood. Therefore, we will continue to conduct our work online with children who have access to the Internet, and use the teleconference method for those who do not. According to the circular issued by the Ministry of Interior, the restrictions on the activities of civil society organisations were extended until February 2021. As of February, we are planning to make the centre of the association safe for children and start our work there in line with all the precautions.

What will RUMUD’s priorities be in 2021?

Working from home is very difficult in the outbreak conditions. We cannot predict how long this process and restrictions will last. Our primary work in this period will therefore be to continue our connection with the children and to create a system where they can reach us in emergency situations or whenever they want. During the outbreak, we prepared the documents for our policies and our institutional capacity-building strategy. We aim to improve the documents created in this process. In addition to these, our online and teleconferencing works will continue.  On the other hand, we have a plan to conduct a monitoring study on the issue of child labour, which has increased significantly during the outbreak, and to develop advocacy activities based on this issue. We are about to start the field activities of this study which will be completed in a short time.  We are conducting another monitoring study on the children’s right to play, which has been violated before the outbreak as well but grows as a problem during the outbreak. This report will soon be available on our website.

About “The Colourful Hopes Association” (Rengarenk Umutlar Derneği)

The Colourful Hopes Association (Rengarenk Umutlar Derneği) realizes socio-cultural and socio-psychological projects in order to provide equal cultural and social opportunities for children and women who is affected by conflicts in the Sur-Diyarbakır region, live in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and exposed to discrimination. The association, which began its activities at the end of 2017, organized many workshops on drama, choir, art, gender equality, respect for differences with about 200 children in a year. A toy library where children can access toys for free was also established. In addition, the association organises social activities and visits to theatre, cinema, summer camp, and aquarium. The association has also implemented many social and educational activities for women in the neighbourhoods, such as the International Women’s Day events, film screenings, reproduction, and sexual health training.