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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
Shifting perceptions of refugees


The #PowerToBe campaign follows 4 passionate Syrians living in Turkey. They are Hiba, a musician; Eslam, an illustrator; Ibrahim, a swimmer; and Mohammed, a coffee lover.

Through the help of monthly EU-funded cash assistance, they are regaining control of their lives, ultimately giving them the power to be themselves. 

The 4 protagonists each meet digitally with influencers from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal, and Poland who share a common passion for music, art, water sports, and coffee.

The campaign shows how people from all lifestyles can connect at eye level despite their differences.

The refugees participating in the campaign are supported by the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN). The initiative is funded by the EU and implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Turkish Red Crescent, in partnership with the Government of Turkey.

The ESSN provides financial support to 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey – mostly from Syria – who are struggling to make ends meet.

The cash assistance helps give refugees some relief from an exceptionally challenging year. In 2021, many refugees faced deepening debt and poverty due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19.

Cash assistance helps give people like Hiba, Eslam, Mohammed and Ibrahim freedom and dignity. They can decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine.

At the same time, it provides the opportunity to invest back into communities that host them, supporting the local Turkish economy.

Eslam, the illustrator

A pencil and paper - that’s all 15-year-old Eslam needs for her sketches. During the war in Syria, drawing was her only refuge.

Today, drawing is still her greatest passion. It’s how she processes her experiences and keeps the memory alive: “Drawing helps me show the world - even if just a little bit - what happened in Syria.”

The ESSN helps Eslam and her family buy what they need most - including her school supplies. She dreams of having her own exhibition one day.

She talks about her hopes and ambitions with Johann from Sweden, Steffen from Germany, and Alice from Italy. Through their exchange, they create pieces of art.

Ibrahim, the swimmer

When Ibrahim swims, he only uses his arms and the movement of the water.

Ibrahim is partially paralysed after a sniper in Syria shot him. He had no choice but to leave everything behind and flee his home country.

The ESSN helps him pay his essential bills. In Istanbul, he volunteers at a centre for disabled children and swims whenever he can.

Swimming makes him feel free, even from his wheelchair.

He talks about the boundlessness of the ocean in video messages with Kris from Poland, and about his next big goal: to participate in the Bosporus Cross-Continental Swim.

Hiba, the musician

Hiba loves to sing and even writes her own songs. They are mostly about love, pain, and her dreams.

Music is Hiba’s passion, and it gives her hope. Hiba grew up in Syria, but her schooling ended abruptly when the war started, and her family fled to Turkey.

Hiba has found confidence in music. She now attends a music school. Her teacher gave Hiba her first guitar, which is her most valued possession.

Things have not been easy for Hiba’s family, but the ESSN assistance helps them get by. Hiba talks about her dream of becoming a musician in her video call with singer April Ivy from Portugal.

Mohammed, the coffee lover

Mohammed loves to drink coffee. He prepares it with cardamom and cloves because the smell reminds him of his homeland, Syria.

Because of the war, Mohammed had to flee with his family to Istanbul. Here, his Turkish neighbours helped him settle in, organised furniture and tasted his Arabic coffee. “The best they’ve ever had” is what they told Mohammed.

The ESSN helps him pay his rent. Mohammed talks to Turkish coffee bean suppliers Hasibe and Ümit about his passion and memories associated with coffee.

For more information about the ESSN digital campaign, visit the official website.