Hello! I'm Felipe. Nice to meet you!

Software engineer. Entrepreneur. Traveller.

I'm originally from Brazil and I moved to the United States to study Software Engineering in 2001. After seven years in the US, I moved to Canada to start my own business. I was very involved in the Montreal Startup Community, founding and running the Montreal NewTech Meetups for four years.

I have created a several social media marketing tools (allowing businesses to create surveys, events, coupons, contests.) These tools gave me the flexibility to live and work from anywhere. Between 2012 and 2015, I had been travelling and living in different countries in Europe (Germany, Greece, Russia, Turkey, Serbia, Bosnia, Italy.)

In December 2015, I decided to moved to Izmir for one year to try to help Syrian families living in Turkey.

At the end of our first year, we've helped over 500 families with some emergency need, empowered 40+ families through knitting or bracelet programs, started 2 Kindergarten for 120+ children, and created a community that supports each other: Our ReVi Family.

One Year in Izmir

Here's some of what we have done...

I had decided that I wanted to work on something long-term, not only emergency aid. I also wanted to focus on a country with a large number of refugees and where they would have to stay for a while.

Since I had lived in Turkey before, I decided on Turkey. I arrived on Dec 1, 2015 and I had the first meeting with some people interested in working together a few days later.

We kept meeting every Tuesday to brainstorm about the different ideas and what we could do.

It's very easy to go on the route of emergency aid, because there's a lot of need and it requires much less planning.

However, I had to keep the focus and direction of the group on long-term solutions.

We met for about a month before we started to do anything. We were getting a core group of volunteers willing to work together.

In the beginning of January, I met Hasan from Syria.

He had more experience meeting the families (and he knew the language) so we were able to start learning about what people needed one family at a time.

Our approach was to go to their homes, hear their stories, see what they needed, and figure out what we could do.

Over time, we've changed the kind of questions we asked. We don't ask so much about their "stories" anymore or about things that we cannot help them with.

We focus on their skills, they current situation in Turkey and we see how we can help. From one family, we go to their friend's home, and then their friends...

Many people stepped up to help. Some people were already living in Izmir. Some people would come here just to help. Some stay for a week, some for months.

In the beginning, it was bit challenging to make sure people would follow the same methodology even though the teams were changing constantly. Moreover, that the families would be able to trust and know that we were part of the same group, even though there was always somebody new visiting them.

And slowly we learnt how to do things a bit more efficient.

For example: when we meet a new family, we always bring something with us. We used to buy a basket of food at a local market, then we started buying it at a whole seller, we used to carry in bags and backpacks, then trolleys.

Now, we have opted to giving the equivalent in cash, so the families can make the decision of what they actually need at the moment. Is it food? Something for the home? Medicine or just to pay the bills? They can make the best decision for them.

A lot of the ideas and activities were born together with the families and based on their situation.

This was the very first dinner we had with a family. She was a teacher, and at the time of our first visit, we didn't have a school yet. So we didn't know how to help them. She mentioned that she liked to cook, so we ask her to cook for us.

But, it took some convincing to have them accept to take money from us.

Now, we have had over 65+ delicious dinners. We give each family 200TL (+ a stove if they don't have one) We always ask them to cook a small dinner and we say that we'll be less than we actually are. But they never listen to us, and now they know from other families that we always come with some extra people...

Our knitting project took a bit longer to get off the ground.

It took so long that I even decided to learn it myself and we started teaching it to a family.

I didn't get to far with it...

After we found the first few women who could knit, we started the program.

Now all of their amazing products are available for purchase at the ReVi Store.

It's always nice to walk around the neighbourhood and see our little friends on the street.

We have now been a part of their lives for a while. We started teaching them at home (English.) Then they joined the ReVi School and learnt how to read/write (in progress,) and now they're at a Turkish School.

I'll never forget how happy they were after the first day of school. Their first time ever going to school. And how thankful their parents were, sharing that the children couldn't even hold a pencil before.

Another Sunday dinner... I have attended almost all of them. Always delicious food.

The original idea of the dinner was to give some extra cash to the family, but soon we realized that the most beneficial aspect of the dinners was the dinner itself. The sense of normal life again. Having some friends over for dinner, talking about happy things and plans for the future. And every single time that I left their homes, I felt like I was leaving my friends' home after some sort of celebration. I think that's when I realized that we weren't here to give some material help. We were helping our new friends.

We didn't plan to open a school. But after visiting around 100+ families and only seeing 2 of them whose children were going to school, we decided to give it a try.

We knew a few teachers, we found a house. And after a couple of weeks, classes started.

Also, I'll never forget the first day of school. I woke up late, so I didn't make it to the beginning. I didn't know if the teacher was able to handle everything by herself, if the kids had shown up... So, I walked up close to the house and I could hear the little voices chanting something in Arabic. I stayed there for a few minutes just listening to it. It was a great feeling.

After the children started coming to our school, it really made a huge difference to the entire family. The children were happy and busy for part of the days, the parents were happy. And the overall moral of the families changed.

Then a month or so later, we opened another school...

On Sunday before the classes started, the kids came to meet the teachers and to decorate the school.

And then we rented a 3rd room. It was Summer and the classrooms were too hot with so many kids.

We also buy hair dressing materials to some families who used to be barbers/hair dressers in Syria. So they can try work from home. That's where the ReVi volunteers go there for hair cuts!

At the knitting shop where we buy the supplies for 15+ families now knitting for us.

All of their amazing products are available at the ReVi Store.

We're in the process of creating some personal channels so that they can sell their products directly. Creating an Instagram and Etsy acounts for them. We'll still support them, especially with payment options as they don't have bank accounts and PayPal no longer works in Turkey.

We'll also use our network of volunteers and supporters to promote their work.

Lots of wool for our knitting families. We have decided to ask all of the families to only make hats, scarfs, socks, and gloves for the Winter. And instead of selling them at the ReVi Store, we let people buy-it-forward and we donate everything that they make to some camps around Izmir.

You can support this program and place an order here.

We offered t pay less to make sure that we could distribute as many as possible and their reactions were unbelievable. They all agreed and some said they'd be glad to do it for free.

I remember once when we came to pick up the products made by one of the women. She shared with us that her husband had just lost his job. And on the same day, she said that she wanted to give one of the items for free every week.

We have also started making bracelets with 18+ families.

Every 20 bracelets is enough for each family to pay their monthly rent. So it's a huge relief to many families. You can see and order these bracelets at the ReVi Store.

We sold the our first 100 bracelets to a group in Lesvos, Greece who wanted to do a fundraising to help the refugees arriving in Greece.

Lots of ReVi bracelets available at the ReVi Store.

And we're back in school after a short Summer break. We have asked all of the children over 7 to register to a Turkish School, so they'd be able to advance in their grades and have access to more resources than at our schools.

We kept only the small kids, ages 4-6.

Most of the students have joined a Turkish School, however we have met a few on the streets saying they're not going to school at all. We're going to reopen one classroom for the older children so they can at least learn some basic stuff and have a safe space to play.

We organized a few picnics over the Summer with 80+ people each. The children loved. The parents were happy. And we very much enjoyed hanging out with the entire ReVi Family!

Hanging out with the kids at the ReVi School.

One day, some of the mothers at the school brought some lunch for us to share with them and the children.

Thank you all for the support. Please continue to support this amazing program.

You can make donations here.

Also, follow our Facebook Page, join our Facebook Group for details about our activities and programs, and follow our Instagram account for daily updates from the volunteers on the ground.