Helping Refugees by Travelling with a Sofa

By Cunejt Davud

Heli and Carla, who accidentally met in Istanbul, have embarked on a long journey to collect aid for the education of refugee kids.

Heli and Carla, who accidentally met in Istanbul, have embarked on a long journey to collect aid for the education of refugee kids.

Originally from Estonia, Heli came to Istanbul to study via the Erasmus student exchange program, and teamed up with Carla from Italy, who after completing high education went to Ankara to engage in fun activities. Travelling together, they are organising diverse activities related to refugee kids’ education.

In an interview for Anadolu Agency (AA), Heli states she met Carla by accident at a concert in Beşiktaş, Istanbul in April, which is where the idea was born.

“Somebody had left this sofa in the vicinity of the place where the concert was taking place. At first, I thought of bringing the sofa home, but Carla suggested that we should consider the places that we could visit with a sofa.”- continues Heli.

Heli claims that initially they found it odd to travel with a sofa as it was rather attention-grabbing, adding: “We therefore envisioned other ways to design the sofa so as to make it more practical”.

Heli goes on to describe their route:

“We set off in Ankara, then Bursa, Alexandroupoli, Thessaloniki, Gevgelija and now we are headed to Skopje. We will hitch-hike via 13 states travelling with a sofa.”

Heli highlighted that they chose a sofa as a token of hospitality, representing a piece of furniture on which families can discuss. “Our objective is to explain in each and every city and state that refugees are people and we should not be afraid of them”.

By means of these travelling activities, the two friends aim to awaken sensitivity towards refugee children, collect aid and spark off discussions that would pave the way toward providing conditions for refugee kids’ education in other states.

“We are part of an organisation in Ankara which is building bridges for refugee children, organising various activities for them. While in Ankara, I was volunteering in these activities and together with some friends, we started visiting refugees so as to learn about the issues they are confronted with”.

Carla underlined that in terms of the children’s education, the first step was providing language classes in Turkish, English and Arabic, adding that they were supported by the municipality of Keçiören, Ankara.

Carla states that they currently provide classes to 66 refugee kids.

“In order to increase this figure, we envisage travelling through Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Austria. We will be visiting different cities every day. We are in touch with local organisations so as to get support”, adding that in Macedonia they were supported by NGO Legis.

In the cities that they visit, they will explain people how they can help with refugee kids’ education.

Heli states that they also faced problems  during their trip: “In Alexandroupoli, we waited for a long time. In the proximity of Çanakkale, we were once stopped by the police; but as soon as we explained our mission, they let us go without any problems.”

Heli added that they also faced issues in terms of hunger and thirst, as well as the fact that they could not cross the borders on foot. Their waiting was therefore “interesting” until someone picked them up.

At the end of the interview, Heli stated: “In Turkey, it is much easier to hitch-hike; however in other states, people are not that open to hitch-hikers, so we had to waste a lot of time to find a vehicle willing to pick us up. One of the issues was travelling under the hot sun.”

Source: Anadoly Agency

Photos: AA, SofaSolution & Legis