CONTRIBUTED BY LARISSA KOERSCHNER
Every week I volunteer at the local Turkish Blind School for children and absolutely love it! I’m sure I make a big difference in the lives of the children, but I probably get a lot more out of it myself. Some days, I’m not sure who enjoys whose company more; the children or me. I stumbled upon this opportunity through a friend who volunteers at the local Turkish Deaf School every week. She told me that she was going to check out this new volunteer opportunity at the Blind School and asked me and my children to tag along. Once I arrived and visited with the children I knew this was something that I wanted to make a part of my life while stationed here in Turkey.
The school is about 30 minutes from the base, mostly highway driving. There are 126 children at the school between the ages of 5 and 16. They have classrooms just like we do, kindergarten through high school. The children attend school from 8:00am to 2:30pm, Monday through Friday. However, there are a few children ages 7-16 who live at the school because their parents can’t transport them to and from on a daily basis. They do get to go home every-other weekend to visit family though. The school is always in search of volunteers for the Saturdays that the students stay at the school. They welcome individuals or entire families to join them for a glass of cay (pronounced “ch-i”), outdoor games, crafts and English conversation. They are grateful for any visitors and appreciate the entertainment they provide for the weekend students.
I volunteer in the kindergarten room since I enjoy working with young children. Most of my experience and education is with young children, but you do not need to have any formal background with teaching or children to volunteer at the school. My 3-year-old daughter attends every week with me and absolutely loves it as well. She gets to play in a real classroom and especially enjoys the housekeeping center. I usually have 3-5 families that join me every week and it makes for a very enjoyable time for the children and adults alike.
Some of the blind children’s favorite activities include touching and feeling new things, building and putting things together, dancing and movement activities and, of course, music. Knowing this, I usually bring something for them to build with such as Legos, blocks and peg boards. They enjoy playing with something new so usually anything I bring is a hit. I also bring musical instruments for them to listen to and explore. Their favorite instrument is the maracas. They enjoy listening to English music and even know some English songs such as the ABC Song. I just bring my iPod along with my daughter’s favorite songs on it so we can all sing along. Since the children enjoy touching and feeling new things, I also bring a simple craft with me. One day we made Fruit Loop Necklaces, another day we made animal masks with feathers, on another day we played with scented play-dough. I can usually find these simple craft ideas online by searching for ‘toddler craft ideas.’
The school year runs similar to ours, September – June and the school is always in need of volunteers. You can set-up a time to visit once, or make it a monthly or weekly commitment. The school welcomes adults and children of all ages into the classrooms. The school is open Monday-Friday from 8:00-2:30 (Friday is a half-day for the kindergarteners) and every other Saturday. This is an amazing opportunity to make a difference and get involved in our host nation’s community. Whether you plan a trip to visit the school by yourself or with a group of family or friends, this is an experience that you will hold with you for years to come!
American Coordinator: Larissa Koerschner
Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org / Home: 676-5678 / Cell: 0535-873-0931
Local Turkish Coordinator: Ayse Unal (pronounced “Eye-sha”)
She speaks great English and will be able to set you up with a volunteer opportunity at either the Blind School or Deaf School with the age group and day of your choice.
Contact Info: Ayse.Unal@hotmail.com / Cell: 0536-791-1505
School Coordinates: N 37°02.360 E 35°14.573
Driving Directions: map Take a right out of front gate on base. Take a right onto the D-400. Take a right at the green highway sign for Mersin (next to the VW car dealership). Follow the road all the way to the highway entrance (you will pass the base back-gate). Stay in your left lane and merge onto the highway (the road splits like a Y). Follow the highway for about 20 minutes. Exit at the Havalimani (Airport) Exit. Make a left on the next road after exiting the highway (if you go right you will be headed towards the M1 Mall). Follow the road down a ways (past the big Iskanbul store and Home Tepe store) and make a left at the light (view map to see where exactly since I don’t know the name of the street). Follow the road up the hill and then down. You will see the school on your right, make a right here on the road in front of the school (picture above). Then make a left immediately after the school and the parking will be on your left (after the blue school sign pictured above). It is gated, but there is always someone in the stand and once they see you they will open the gate for you to pull in and park.
Have you been to this school? What age group did you work with? What was your experience like?
EDITOR’S NOTE: As of February 2016, this post has been re-published on our Overseas Yes network site, Germany Ja. We are in the process of transferring all the content of this site over there, and will be shutting Turkey Tamam down once that process is complete. Comments have been closed on this post here, but if you’ve got something to add we’d love to continue the conversation. Please visit this post in its new home on Germany Ja and leave your comment there.