Question & Answer
Sameera Kanjo, Founder & Director of the Selam Center,
answers the following questions:
“Tell me briefly about your story & how you ended up in Gaziantep.”
My name is Sameera Kanjo. I was born in Aleppo in 1959. I guess we can say I grew up as an orphan since I was 10 years old. Thank God life continued normally, and I had the chance to study. I graduated from the Secretarial College in Damascus. I married and I have four children - all are university graduates...two from engineering and two from business faculties with thanks to God. I was also employed and worked in Dummar's Housing Project. Afterwards I obtained a license and taught in a primary school. After 20 years of working as a teacher I opened an educational institution for fashion design. This is in Aleppo city. Then the crisis took place. After the crisis, my kids and I were engaged in humanitarian work. We were keeping up with humanitarian campaigns and took courses in performing first aid. And we were supporting those who are in need...me and my kids. Back then my son (Muhammad) was abducted and remained imprisoned for 5 months. When we was out, I took him and came to Gaziantep. I had no choice to do anything other than this to be honest.
"Why did you & your daughter, Manar, found the Selam Center?"
As mentioned, the dire humanitarian need for help is what drove us to do this. Initially, we started our humanitarian works in Syria. After coming here, it was evident that one has to help out, and the first thing that came to our minds was taking care of orphaned children because children were on the streets, and in and out of refugee camps. Some were in very poor mental states and even health wise. So we actually had to work on this and thank god we were able to help.
"Why is the Selam Center important?"
It's importance comes from its residents because they need such a home to take care of them, especially for their health, psychology, and education matters until they feel safe and lead a normal life.
"What are the Selam Center's successes?"
Such successes, with thanks to god as stated by others, we were number one in providing psychological support to our residents' needs. This was possible after working three to four years initially until they felt normal. We were also pioneers in assuring our children receive education. All of them go to schools from 3 years old until university. We were very proud to see two of our girls admitted to universities this year to study engineering. In god's blessing, we hope the rest follow a similar path of success.
"What are the Selam Center's current needs?"
We are requiring urgent need for support. As from one side the number of children is increasing. Second, our resources are limited as we rely on individual volunteers. We are suffering in financial resources. Especially when it comes to paying rent, electricity heating and water bills, and living expenses. We have always relied on donations from individual donors. With expenses increasing to these amounts, we are finding it extremely difficult to sustain.
"What do you want others to know about the Selam Center & its residents?"
What we already mentioned: The center is purely humanitarian. Everyone working in the center are here on voluntary basis. And their only aim is to provide humanitarian support so that all residents feel safe.
"How has your experience of the Syrian crisis & the Selam Center changed you?"
Frankly the Syrian crisis and the Selam Center changed many things. People became stronger and I can see for myself that we become stronger. Our dreams used to be personal. Every woman would dream about her home, her kids, their education etc. Now we have collective dreams...when we will return home and how we will rebuild it. I don't know. Perhaps this is a better outcome. But it came as a result of many sufferings that made our dreams larger than ourselves. Their horizons became bigger.
"What are your hopes for yourself, the Selam Center, & the Syrian people?"
Stability. Emotional stability. To return home and rebuild it. To put this phase behind us, and with god's will, we look onwards. This is our hope.