This story is part of a Refinery29 series that explores the women behind the headlines of the Syrian refugee crisis. Read the full multimedia feature, Behind the Headlines: Daughters of Paradise, here. More coverage on the human faces of the world's refugee crisis can be found here.
Najlaa Al-Sheikh has a round face and almond-shaped brown eyes. On a warm day last August, she wore a white hijab tucked into a button-down shirt and light blue jeans. In the garden courtyard of a house once owned by a rich Turkish family, Najlaa sat at the center of a long table, leading a group of women in a discussion familiar to mothers around the world: how to balance the stress of work and raising children.
"Just count to 10 when you feel like you are fed up," she offered the women gathered around her as she stirred a cup of coffee. "When you say one, two, three, you have already taken time and space to calm down. One, two, three, four, and you didn't let the anger make your decision."
These women have much more to balance than just work and children, however. They are refugees, forced to flee violence and civil war in their native Syria and resettle here, in Kilis, a Turkish city five miles from the border but a world away. More than 4 million Syrian refugees like these people have fled since the country's civil war began in 2011
; the majority are women and children.
Here, the women know Najlaa as a loyal friend, a take-charge ally, someone who has helped them regain their dignity and rebuild their lives through job training and college courses.
"They say that women make up half of the community, but from my experience, I feel that they are the entire community," Najlaa said. "I personally feel that the woman is the person capable of truly achieving something. Because in the end, she is building families and a new community."