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Baking for Refugees

Years ago, I remember buying a t-shirt that said something like “It will be a great day when schools get all the money they need, and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”  Then I joined the Navy and realized that even in the richest military in the world, we don’t have all the money or resources that we need.  In fact, I have yet to be a part of an organization that was equipped with all of the resources required to accomplish its goals.   So, spoiler alert – this post is about trying to raise money for refugees in Ankara, and includes a link where you can donate if you’re so inclined.  Thanks!TUK01_2011_0313_Zaman_Mohammed_story_Dollsj_26

I’ve been teaching English at the Ankara Refugee Center for a few months now.  It’s actually one of the most fulfilling things I do here in Turkey.  I have the Advanced Conversation Class with a student load of 3-15 students per week.  As refugees come and go the class size shifts dramatically, but the constant change makes for interesting conversations.  Right now, we’re going through a book on idioms, which is an ideal springboard to get people talking while learning.  I know from learning Turkish how important is just to practice speaking, about anything, really, to make the tongue more fluent.

Unfortunately funds to support all of the refugees in Turkey have not caught up with the influx of refugees from the crisis in Syria.  Numbers increase daily, but before the Syria war started, the average daily total for refugees in Turkey hovered around 55,000.  Now it’s upward of a half-million and growing.  Most international funds have been diverted to the needs of the war refugees in the camps on the border who expect to return to Syria when the conflict is resolved.

The rest of the normal influx of refugees, from countries like Iraq, Iran, and Somalia, are working through their UN refugee status and procedures for follow-on to a third country.  Turkey is rarely the final destination but frequently a transfer country for refugees.  For these refugees, both Turkey and UN proscribe strict rules that usually confine them to an assigned city, with frequent check-ins with the local police.

Most of my students left their native country, like Iraq or Iran, for a variety of heartbreaking reasons, and set up new lives for themselves in Syria.  Then, when the fighting broke out, they found themselves double-refugees in Turkey.  As they aren’t allowed to work, they depend on aid for daily living expenses.

The Ankara Refugee Center provides food, clothing, legal aid, English and Turkish education, and emergency assistance for refugees assigned to Ankara and nearby municipalities.  The center is on the brink of closing because most of the funds from its primary sponsor, Jesuit Relief Services, have been diverted to the border camps.  However, these people are still in need.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I woke up at six to bake some goodies to raise some money for the refugees in Ankara.  I don’t bake a lot, mostly because I prefer improvisational cooking to precisely following the steps of a recipe, but also because when you live alone you have to offload your cookies or cake quickly, or you end up eating it all yourself.  When I do bake, however, I’m always surprised by how little time it takes to make something so good!


Yesterday I made one sweet and one savory item for sale: Cheddar Bay biscuits and Irish Coffee Brownies.  The biscuits (except the batch I burned) were awesome, and even as the only the savory item for sale didn’t sell out.  The brownies did a lot better, but I though they turned out a little dry.  I’m still getting to know my oven, and since I don’t bake that much, I don’t really have a repertoire of go-to recipes.

We held the bake sale on the opening day of soccer for all the international schools in Ankara.  I really enjoyed doing the bake sale.  Although it rained later in the afternoon, it was a great opportunity to sit outside on one of the first sunny days in Ankara.  I met lots of people from all over the world and we were able to spread the word about the refugees right here in Ankara to other city residents.  We made about 3000 TL, which is around $1650.  No, we didn’t sell that many cupcakes.  Most of the money came from HK, a former LPGA golfer who was selling golf lessons.  But the important thing is that we replenished the emergency fund a bit and can keep the center operating for a bit longer.

Of course all this information isn’t presented without a purpose.  We made a good dent with the bake sale and have other fundraising ideas, but it would really help if you could donate something too.  We set up a campaign at indiegogo.  If you can donate to help the refugees, or know of somebody who can, please check out the campaign here:

Thanks so much!!!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Patrick Redmon #

    Imagine how much money we would have if the US Navy didn’t give big bonus $$ to our nukes!? (hee hee) Sorry, the Jarhead in me just couldn’t resist… I am heartened to see that you are doing good stuff, Sarah. I can’t even begin to imagine the heartache felt by the children growing up in such conditions. I certainly feel more than a bit guilty knowing the amount of money I spent with Olivia at the Ringling Brothers, Barney and Bailey circus on Saturday morning! We do live in a wonderful country and I continue to remind myself of that privilege. Be well, be safe and thank you for your efforts in chipping away at our “ugly American” reputation.

    April 22, 2013
    • Thanks – I’m trying to make the most of my free time here. I volunteered for different stuff in San Diego, but was deemed “unreliable” due to ship’s schedule and politely asked to stop showing up.
      And I agree completely about how lucky we are to be American. Nothing reinforces that like getting to know the rest of the world!

      April 24, 2013

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