Crouch End analyst highlights needs of Syrian refugees in Turkish schools

Claire Meir part of a charity raising money for books for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Photo: Nigel Su

Claire Meir part of a charity raising money for books for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Photo: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A mother was inspired to fundraise to buy books for Syrian children in Turkey after imagining what it would be like if her son was fleeing devastating civil war.

Claire Meier Underhill, 39, who has an eight-year-old son at Highgate Primary School, is fundraising to buy books for under-equipped Turkish schools as part of her volunteering work with charity One Refugee Child.

She says the January deal between the EU and Turkey introduced work permits and school places for Syrian refugees - but children are still struggling to integrate.

Turkish donors have set up private schools for Syrian refugees, but they are under-equipped and need books.

“I think in an ideal world all the children would be able to go to mainstream children’s schools but that’s not how Turkey is running it right now - they’re created because there’s a need,” Claire explained.

A government bond analyst by day, Claire volunteers for international charity One Refugee Child which has contacts on the ground in Turkey.

She knew she had to act after seeing photos of Syrian children sleeping by Swedish photojournalist Magnus Wennman.

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“I thought about how I tuck my child into sleep and I don’t have to worry - he’s not sleeping in the forest, he’s not sleeping among a ton of strangers,” she said.

“We didn’t get bombed out of our home and are now travelling across a continent - leaving behind our worldly belongings in search of a happy and peaceful life.”

“You can’t watch the news - you have to do something - and thank God we found a way.

“[One Refugee Child] is small, it’s grassroots - we’re just trying to provide small comforts and small kindnesses - little things that we recognise as mums that it would be hard to do without.”

Claire is fundraising to buy books in Arabic, English and Turkish for Syrian refugees.

She wants to visit Turkey later in the year to help roll out the books - not just textbooks, but also novels and fairy tales.

“The joy and the excitement and getting lost in the story is such a fundamental part of life,” she said.

Claire is organising a charity gig at the Boogaloo in Highgate on May 19.

See for more information and to donate.