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Summer 2030.
KoruMaya, Urfa, Turkey.
Eyyübiye District.

The sun is beaming on the pod in which Tahani and Ömer have gathered for shade. Both are 14. They’ve met four years ago while playing basketball at KoruMaya’s Sport Center. Tahani was born in Aleppo, Syria. She has long thick curly hair assembled in a braid, long eyelashes and an infectious smile. Ömer is a slender and graceful young boy with delicate manners. He grew up in Urfa and has never traveled beyond its confines, the last boy of a family of four. His family has lived in the region for generations.

Their story starts in 2022, when Nadine, Tahani’s mother took Tahini and her four siblings to KoruMaya for food assistance. She came in exhausted, feeling raw with a heavy heart, worrying about her family. Welcomed by Hilal–a psychotherapist from Maya Foundation, they first passed by the kindergarden to drop the kids who could be taken care of for free during the consultation. Nadine could finally disclose her daily struggles, their fight for legal status, the cost of education for her kids, the difficulties her husband has finding work and his resulting anger to manage at home. Hilal was able to offer psychosocial care and introduce her to the other NGOs that would help her meet her basic needs.

That day, Hilal had listened to Nadine empathetically. In the conversation, she discovered Nadine was working at her husband’s bakery in Syria. She used to make منقوشة زعتر, manoushe rich with with za’atar for their bakery in Aleppo. A week later, Nadine was offered a job at KoruMaya’s Bakery specializing in local simits [Turkish bagels]. She became the breadwinner of the family. She could work early hours and simply drop the kids to the KoruMaya’s daycare facilities.

After school, when Tahani doesn’t play basketball, she studies documentary photography. It’s a workshop she cherry-picked from the evening courses available through KoruMaya’s Center for Learning. Her favorite moment is when, once a month, worldwide experts come in to speak of specific techniques, methodologies and findings.

Tahani wanted to become an educator and study in Istanbul. With Ömer, they would speak endlessly about life in Istanbul and abroad. Ömer wanted to become an architect. He had participated in workshops presented by the architects of KoruMaya. His voice would always become vibrant when he shared his current readings to Tahini. He shares his latest favorite read with her; The Third Teacher, written twenty years ago by a consortium of architects, each case study highlights the importance of architecture in educative environments. Mulling over their future dreams together was their weekly ritual at KoruMaya.

Ömer aspires to research and develop nomadic learning modules adaptable to rural environments. Probably his way to link a passion for learning to his thirst for travels. He turns toward Tahani, “One day we will go to Ulan-Bator”. Tahani with a mouth full of pistachios, bursts in a contagious laugh at the sound of the word.

Photo credits: PIN Architects