The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Thursday January 19th. Morning and Afternoon.

More clothes shopping, for another interview with another charity.

Jamal has two wives, four daughters, and one son. The son is three years old and has...something that isn't quite autism. What would you call a happy, energetic child who loves exploring and solving puzzles, but doesn't seem to understand that people aren't machines?

He doesn't know anyone's name, including his own. He shows no fear of - or interest in - strangers. He won't meet anyone's gaze, takes random but unchangable dislikes to familiar people, including his mother, but he operates electronic devices with ease.

Most days, he spends a few hours at the local center for autistic children, encouraged to play with educational toys by women with endless patience and boundless love - in the hope that some social skills will emerge as a by-product.

There's almost no funding, and what there is goes into equipping the classroom. The broken-down syrian expatriots who run the place suggested we approach the "Saad" charity for possible employment.

So, a round of shopping for "impressive" clothes in the second hand street market, where the stock display is a table piled with unsorted shirts, then one for shoes, etc.

These places are also run by syrian refuges - one's who've climbed the latter from destitution to riches by one rung. It may be that there are small businesses in Turkey run by actual turks - instead of syrians, kuwaitis, iraqis, saudis, and even greeks. But I'm not sure I've seen any yet.

And so on to meet the head of the Saad charity to help syrians learn IT and people skills. And english. According to both his business cards, he's called Dr Asaad Asaad. I was at school with a Leo Lyons, and I suppose if we brits can have Magnus Magnussesn and Jerome K Jerome, Turkey can have something similar.

I like him, on a purely personal level. I'd be happy to work for him. Small detail though: He has exactly zero interest in spending any of the money his charity raises in doing anything. Except possibly adding even more shiny black leather upholstry to his office. I think all the workers are volunteers.

So yes, it's that kind of fundraising.

The least movement blurred picture I could get of Wassam. He doesn't seem to mind.

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