Today was a day for multiple interviews, love poems, hanging with some cool people, a random act of kindness and generosity, and lots and lots of laughter. My heart is peaceful and full.
I went to Children of Hope today for a second interview with Ferat Şahin and ended up conducting a total of six interviews. Ferat was not there when we got to CHA, which was unexpected because he was the whole reason I was there in the first place and the only person I had prepared interview questions for. So I conferred with Bürde, my interpreter, for a minute and we decided that this would be a good opportunity to interview some of the residents and volunteers. They were really excited to have us there and really curious about us. We sat at an outdoor table and were instantly surrounded by curious onlookers. I figured that it would be best to talk with one person at a time and so we got started.
CHA is only allowed to house “kids” 18 and older, so the residents there were mostly young adults, although Ferat made it clear that he will never turn anyone away. Occasionally “kids” under 18 are given permission by the social workers to stay with CHA instead, but most of the time they end up in group homes until they are 18 (after which they usually end up back on the streets). Any minor that Ferat takes off the streets, and there have been hundreds of them, must be turned over to social workers. The system is terribly flawed as most of the kids turned over to social workers run away from their group homes and end up back on the streets and back on drugs.
The first “kid” I interviewed was a resident whom I am going to call “C”. He is 26 years old and has been living at CHA for the past few years. He was reluctant to talk to me about his family life only saying “I don’t have a good life story. That’s why I don’t want to tell you about it.” He said that he lived for many years on the streets using drugs and stealing to survive. When I asked him to share with me a little bit about what his life was like in the streets, he would only say “There is nothing much to tell, but the streets are like a hole that can suck people in.” I’m not gonna lie, I was disappointed that he wasn’t willing to share more with me. Despite being 26, he looked so young and his eyes had a look of deep sadness behind them. At the same time I found gratitude to CHA, for giving me the opportunity to meet this boy and, most importantly, for giving him a second chance.
The second “kid” I interviewed was also a resident that I am going to call “Y”. He is 16 years old and has been living at CHA for the past 3 or 4 months. He couldn’t really give me a time estimate as for how long he has been living on the streets. He did say that he came from an unhappy family life and ran away to escape it. Currently he is battling with addiction. CHA works hard to help kids get off drugs and turn their lives around, but there is no formal treatment for them (and there is definitely no 12 step approach). “Y” says that he wants to stop using drugs but he can’t. It was hard to see this kid and hear the parts of his story he was willing to share. He didn’t look much older than my own son; he just looked like a little kid.
The drug that seems to be popular among the street kids here in Istanbul is called Tiner, which is Turkish for Paint Thinner. It is cheap, accessible and a real problem for the these kids. It was mentioned to me that these kids need the drugs in order to survive on the streets and Ferat mentioned to me that drugs in Istanbul are getting cheaper, more plentiful and easier to find – a bad combination for kids on the street.
The last interview that I am going to share about was with a “kid” that I am going to call “O”. He is 19 and is one of the newer residents at CHA. This kid was a reporter’s dream (for the most part). He was open, charming, and talkative. He shared with me that he started living on the streets when he was 13 (the same age as my son), when he ran away from the domestic violence in his home. He survived by begging and asking food stands for yesterday’s food. He used drugs. He had been hit by 3 cars, during his time on the streets, and one of the accidents has permanently damaged one of his hands, which limits the type of work he can do. Today he lives at CHA and is looking for work. He loves to write poetry and he insisted on writing a poem for me. He dictated to my interpreter and she wrote it down and then translated it for me. It was a really sweet little love poem. Words cannot even describe how full my heart was after talking to this boy and how happy it made me to see him happy and smiling and healthy. I think I might see if I can use him for my feature piece – Street Kid Turned Poet? Has a kinda cool ring to it…
There were more interviews too. I have 40+ pages of notes to organize and type. It was such a beautifully full day today. My spirit is happy, my heart is full and my head is quiet. Who could ask for anything more?
Peace and Love.