Social Awareness Projects (SAP, Turkish: TDP) is a Bilkent University student initiative that was founded in 1999 to provide aid to victims of the Marmara earthquake. Having attraction of many Bilkent students who wished to volunteer to help others, TDP then launched its Volunteer Education Project, an initiative that has laid the foundations for many future subsequent volunteer projects organized and led by the TDP platform. Since that time, until today, TDP the organization has impacted the lives of thousands of people, including our volunteer students and members of our target communities, and it continues to serve communities in need with 16 different projects.
Citizens of Hope Project (UYP)
The bleeding wound of humanity: the refugee crisis. Every second, due to war, conflict, and religious discrimination, millions of people around the world are forced to flee to other countries in order to find better living conditions or just to live a normal life. Some of these people may even risk losing their lives during their migration. While our country is doing its best to provide a haven for four million refugees, we at the Citizens of Hope Project want to offer refugee families who escaped from the clutches of war, children who opened their eyes to a life full of fear and who couldn’t even go outside to play games with their friends, the opportunity to make up for the life they weren’t able to live. Our activities include providing assistance to families in need, organizing events to raise awareness of the refugee crisis (with the support of other institutions and organizations working in this field), and offering training seminars to volunteers who will take part in the project, with the aim of helping to provide a solution to the refugee problem. Our project regards all children in the world as the hope of the future, and so we want to give refugee children the same opportunities that other children have, and to see them light the way for humanity in the future. For this reason, one of our most important goals is to help them adapt to the host society through education, to pave their way by providing them with the same curriculum other children have, to encourage them in leading a life free from the fear of war, and to help them become contributing members of society. Even when our face-to-face activities were interrupted due to the pandemic, we continued to provide education online, preparing and sending materials for activities that the children could do at home and learn while having fun. In line with our mission, the Citizens of Hope Project has supported hundreds of families and children in need up to now, and will continue to do so. Our door is open to all new volunteers who would like to join in this mission and take part in our project.
Education for the Visually Impaired Project (GÖREP)
Imagine a room with a comfortable, nurturing atmosphere where children use their little hands to explore mountains constructed from play dough, plains fashioned from cotton, and cell organelles made of pasta. Imagine curious hands that touch every surface and hold your hand – and, when the day is over, a child’s voice saying “Don’t go!” We GÖREP (Education for Visually Impaired Students) volunteers leave home every Sunday morning to spend time with visually impaired students. They meet us at the entrance door of their school, and then we begin the day’s activities, which are aimed at improving their dexterity, general knowledge, and schoolwork. We’ve done lots of different things: we’ve gone on trips, sung together at outdoor concerts, played with Bella the guide dog, written letters to Poland, and sailed on Eymir Lake. Sometimes we sing Turkish classical music, sometimes we rap. We do handicrafts, we have pizza parties. Since 2004, we’ve held visually impaired students’ hands and said, “Renklerimiz ortak olsun” (Let’s share our colors). During the pandemic, we’ve helped visually impaired students with their school lessons via Skype. We prepared audio lectures for them that we uploaded to our YouTube channel. (And before making the recordings, we learned how to improve our diction.) We produced a comic book to raise awareness about visually impaired students among their peers, and also produced audio-assisted video games for visually impaired students to play. If you want to “share your colors” with those who see with their hands, GÖREP will be an ideal fit for you.
Friendship without Barriers Project (ENDOST)
Mentally and physically disabled individuals are part of society. The ENDOST Project family aims to make life easier for them, help them improve their coordination, and most importantly, have a good time with them. We carry out our activities in association with ZİÇEV (Foundation for the Protection and Education of Mentally Disabled Children) and SERÇEV (Association for Children with Cerebral Palsy). While we visit our mentally disabled friends at ZİÇEV, we also spend time and do activities with our more physically disabled friends at SERÇEV; the ages of the individuals in the institutions we go to vary. We organize activities every week, on weekdays or weekends. The activities range from handicrafts to outdoor games and dancing; we want to contribute to our friends’ development at least a little, while also having a good time with them. Along with visiting the institutions, we also organize outside activities such as bowling, museum tours, and picnics, as well as bringing our friends to Bilkent. In addition to all of the above, we aim to raise awareness about the disabled everywhere we can, starting on our own campus, and break down prejudices concerning them. That’s why we try to make our voices heard as much as possible during national and international days and weeks dedicated to heightening awareness about the disabled. During the pandemic period, when we couldn’t conduct face-to-face activities, to keep in touch with our friends and teach them new topics, we prepared several videos with titles such as “We are learning about planets,” “Storytelling,” and “Play for ENDOST.” In addition, we kept the bond among our volunteers alive and maintained the continuity of our activities by holding meetings and playing games using the Zoom or Discord applications. Finally, through the awareness-raising interviews we conducted during the term, we informed people around campus about specific issues. If you want to be part of this family, we welcome you. Let’s not forget, there’s no obstacle that love can’t overcome.
Hearts 1 Leukemia 0 Project (K1L0)
As the Hearts 1 Leukemia 0 family, we’re a group of “volunteer clowns” who are always there for children struggling with leukemia. Sometimes we entertain them, sometimes we help them with their studies; we always share our unconditional love with them. Even though we couldn’t meet and clown with them in person during the pandemic due to their being in a high-risk group, we did our best to remind them that we’re still here to support them. Our project is divided into subgroups by activity: balloons, magic, play dough, etc. We’ve posted instructional videos on YouTube, transmitted via hospital channels, so that the children could do the activities by themselves. We’ve also held seminars and lectures, given by specialist doctors and psychologists, in order to increase societal awareness about leukemia. But it’s through our social media channels that we’ve been most active. While informing our followers about the K1L0 subgroups, we’ve also refuted common mistaken notions about leukemia and shared the correct information with them. It’s not clear what the pandemic will bring in the coming period, but in any case, we’re ready to share our love with children and remind them that someone is always thinking about them. If you want to “be a clown” and educate children with leukemia while also entertaining them and encouraging them to never lose their motivation, the door of our carnival is always open for you!
Imagination Bridge Project (HKP)
The Imagination Bridge Project is dedicated to making life better for children up to age 6 who are growing up in prison because their mothers are incarcerated. Our aim is to prepare them for life in the outside world by offering entertainment as well as instruction. Every week we visit the children for two hours and organize activities that will help them develop both physically and psychologically. For instance, we’ve held costume parties, taught them about animals, planted flowers, and done painting and crafting. In addition to visiting the children, we’re also attempting to raise awareness about their situation by conducting interviews, holding lectures, and screening films. If you want to touch a child’s life, you’re cordially invited to the Imagination Bridge!
Institutional Projects consist of five sub-initiatives including Organization, Aid Campaigns, Sponsorship, Volunteer Symposium and Publicity. The main goal of these sub-initiatives is to organize activities that will embrace all of TDP target groups and help enhance the awareness for other TDP projects. Institutional Projects also organize events that will bring all of TDP projects together such as visiting dog shelters, which helps TDP community to create new areas to focus on. We organize the annual “TDP Children’s Festival” with the participation of 500 children from all our TDP Project initiatives. We also organize an annual “Volunteer Symposium” and explore a new social responsibility theme that needs to be addressed in society, with the participation of volunteers from all around Turkey. We organize Aid Campaigns, where we open aid donation stands on Bilkent University campus and help accomplish the realization of the wishes of school children in rural areas. These donations are taken to these schools on a regular basis. Our Publicity team aims to enhance TDP’s visibility and fostering its brand awareness in social media as well as preparing and distributing its media kits and other PR materials. Our Sponsorship teamwork strenuously at making our target groups content. These efforts enable us to reach more target groups and allow us to reach our goals more smoothly. For many years, our Institutional Projects have continuously organized many activities allowing TDP to be more influential within our university and outside and has accomplished our value to our volunteers and to our different target groups.
Listen to the Hearing Impaired Project (DUYGEL)
In the Hear the Hearing Impaired Project, we endeavor to show that communication can be established not only with sound, but in many other ways as well. To this end, we organize fun and also educational activities for our target audience. In order to enable and promote the use of sign language, which is a primary method of communicating with hearing-impaired individuals, we conduct sign language training sessions and try to increase the number of people we reach by producing training videos. In our country, many hearing-impaired individuals avoid contact with others or need someone else with them to help them communicate. In order to reduce this need, we try to broaden the horizons of hearing-impaired middle and primary school students and encourage them to think creatively by doing in-school or out-of-school activities with them once a week. As their university “big brothers” and “big sisters,” we want to make them feel that we hear their silent voices and that they’re not alone. In this way, we both take a step toward the development of a more conscious society and try to set a good example for our young friends. Under the current pandemic conditions, we’ve made various changes in the way our project functions, but have been able to continue our training sessions via online platforms. In addition, we’ve made an effort to increase the general public’s awareness of sign language by sharing the training videos we shot. (A little info: Sign language is actually very easy to learn, as most signs have a logical basis; in fact, some signs are the same gestures we use in daily life. If you have any doubts about this, you should definitely come and see it being used.) In addition, although we couldn’t meet with hearing-impaired children in person, we prepared and sent boxes with materials for the activities we normally do with them at their school, in order to let them know that we still care about them as well as to ensure that they have some fun. During the Children’s Festival, we even had the opportunity to get together with some of the children online and do some activities together. We’ll be happy to welcome you into this family, where you’ll feel love in its quietest form.
Raising Tomorrow Project (YYP)
In “The Raising Tomorrows Project,” we find joy in contributing to the social life and sociocultural development of our more than 200 little brothers and sisters living in Ankara Sevgi Evleri Çocuk Yuvası and Saray Evleri Kız Yetiştirme Yurdu (residential institutions for children and teenagers aged 6–13 and 13–18). Our volunteers visit these institutions every Sunday from 10.00 to noon and spend time with the youngsters living there; we try to leave an impression on their lives and to be role models that they lack. During our visits, we emphasize the importance of group work while doing the educational and entertaining activities that we’ve prepared. We also endeavor to establish good communication with the children, in the hope of making this a turning point in their lives by instilling a mutual sense of unconditional love and respect. Simply talking with them so that they don’t feel the absence of their families so acutely is one of the most important things we do. To maintain our communication with the children during the pandemic, we sent them packages containing the materials needed for activities that could help them develop various skills; for example, the “Solar System” and “Weather Vane” activities promoted the development of manual skills. In this way, we continued to help our children and show them how much we care. In the future, we plan to organize more activities for the same purposes, and put a smile on the faces of these youngsters. If you want to support us on this journey and have the experience of a child you’d never met before adopting you as their big brother/sister, we’ll be happy to have you among us!
Street Lamp Project (SLP)
There are currently 152 million child laborers in the world, 73 million of whom are forced to work under harsh conditions, while 34 percent cannot exercise the fundamental right to pursue their education. In Turkey, during the years 2013–2019, 419 children died because of workplace accidents or the harsh conditions in which they worked. The Street Lamp Project started in 2004, for the purpose of raising awareness and giving a hand to the children carrying this heavy load on their small shoulders. Our aim is to be the smile on their faces, a model for their lives, and a light on their dark streets. By organizing activities at our university and off campus on alternate weeks, we hope to give them new experiences and help them discover new talents. With every volunteer who joins our family, our Sundays grow even more meaningful, and our streets brighter. Please consider becoming a “lamp” to light up the streets!
Supports on Railway Project (DHDP)
The name of our project gives a bit of a hint: it refers to the three-day trip we take each year to a Turkish village, during which we travel and stay on a train provided by Turkish State Railways. This trip constitutes the first stage of our project, in which we visit students in a village school. What do we do in the village? On days one and two, we conduct 24 educational activities, including but not limited to handicraft workshops, presentations about various professions, health and science classes, and game sessions. Our goal is to entertain the children, give them new perspectives on learning and research, and inspire them to continue their education. We prepare for the activities before the trip, and during those first two days of the trip we work diligently as a team to boost the children’s confidence and encourage them to set goals for the future. Day three is a celebration day, when everyone in the village joins us in numerous festive activities, such as a backgammon tournament, face painting, and “graduation henna.” This becomes our favorite day of the trip, when we bond with all of the village residents as well as the children – and it makes us as happy as children ourselves! In the second stage of the project, the children we visited travel with us by bus on a day trip to Ankara. First, we take a tour of our university’s campus, and then we go sightseeing: we visit Anıtkabir and a few museums, and view some of the city’s landmarks. In sum, our project serves to inspire and motivate children in their own environment, and then shows them a slice of what the future might hold for them if they aspire to go to college in Ankara someday. Our greatest motivation is the hope that we may have a positive influence on their future choices. For us, Support on the Railway is much more than just a train trip. Our goal is to ignite a spark in the children we meet, like firing up a train engine, and we hope to contribute to paving the way to their future. During the pandemic, we have conducted alternative activities that still further the main objective of our project. First, we sent packages to the village schools attended by the children. These packages contained a variety of materials, some educational and some just for fun. As soon as they arrived, we met with the children via Zoom and led them in doing more than twenty activities, using the materials that had been sent. Based on the feedback we received from both the children and volunteers, it seems that everyone had plenty of fun; certainly, we sent the children lots of love. At any rate, we hope that we were able to provide them with another foundation stone for their future goals and dreams, without losing the spirit of the Support on the Railway Project – the only thing missing was the delight of a train ride.
The House of Dreams Project (DEP)
The House of Dreams Project’s target group is women and children living in women’s shelters. The shelters, which may be found in almost every city, are homes where women and their children can stay if they face violence or threats to their safety. According to the World Health Organization, 38 percent of women in Turkey are exposed to violence from their domestic partners at least once in their lives, and all types of violence against women continue to be widespread in our country. In the House of Dreams Project, our purpose is to enrich the lives of women and children who live in women’s shelters, and also to expand the children’s horizons. Every Saturday from 10.00 to 13.00 we spend time with shelter residents and do activities designed to suit their interests: for instance, museum visits, cooking, karaoke, and handicrafts with the women and kindergarten activities with the children. We let them know that they’re not alone, and we share their dreams. We might meet you on a Saturday morning in the corridors of a Bilkent faculty building, a museum queue, or an artist’s studio. Join us, and we can share their dreams together!
The Sun Rises from the Village (GÜNKÖY)
We’re the Sun Rises from the Village Project family, and our goal is to reveal the hidden suns that rise in the villages but may not be able to shine at their full brightness due to limited opportunities. We organize weekend visits to at least four primary schools in the rural areas of our country every year. While there, our construction unit builds brand new libraries full of hope for these village schools. We also stock each library’s shelves with dozens of books we’ve collected for the children. And while the construction unit is working hard to complete the library, our other volunteers, organized into subgroups, devote their time over two days to conducting sports, culture, theater, art, music, and science activities that will be both educational and enjoyable for the school pupils. We thus make our children aware of both the importance of reading and the fact that they’re never alone; by offering our material and emotional support, we hope to be positive role models for these children, and eventually to reach many more in schools we haven’t yet visited. We aim to be like a sun lighting the way to their dreams, thereby nurturing new suns that will illuminate the future. Last year, although it wasn’t possible to visit villages and conduct our activities in person during the pandemic, we continued our efforts to reach out to children and touch their lives using online methods. We managed to send many books to them, to conduct the activities organized for them by our different subgroups via Zoom, and to support students preparing for the high school entrance exam through a new program called DersKöy. Although we’re still not sure what the pandemic conditions in our country will require in the coming months, one thing we do know is that we’ll do our best to make our children happy and help them realize the sun in their own lives, whatever the circumstances.
Travelling Art Project (GESA)
As the Travelling Art Project, we aim to introduce our target audience of Social Awareness Projects to art. We have three sub-categories; theatre, rhythm, and crafts. Our goal is to ensure that our target audience is exposed to all of these specific areas. During the year, our traveling theatre performs our original dramas written for our target audiences all around the town. We also conduct theatre, rhythm, and craft activities at a school of our choice that we decide on at the beginning of the semester. We support the connection of art with social awareness within the magical world of paints, canvases, and theatre curtains. In this first year of our foundation, we aim for our target audience to be entertained and have primary skills in various artistic areas. We have started our journey when we saw the light and excitement in children’s eyes upon watching a theatre play for the very first time. We would be delighted if you also join us in this wonderful journey.
Volunteer Grandchild Project (MEP)
The Volunteer Grandchild Project’s target group is nursing/retirement home residents. The project not only ensures that the elderly people have a good time thanks to the various activities held in two nursing homes, but also gives our volunteers, who have to deal with the stress of their intensive academic schedules, a chance to clear their minds by conversing with elderly people who are happy to share their life experiences. In addition, music and theater activities and board games enable elders and volunteers alike to have fun while socializing, and crafts such as stone painting and pottery add variety to the sameness of life in a nursing home. Finally, the project volunteers offer our target group an opportunity to spend time outside the home by organizing, for example, visits to Anıtkabir or breakfast outings. During the pandemic, we tried to have a positive effect and make elderly people happy by sending videos on special occasions. In the years to come as in the past, we’re planning to continue to put smiles on their faces.
Volunteer Tutoring Project (GEP)
We all know that education is the only way to make the world better, and at Volunteer Education Projects, we don’t want any child to be disadvantaged in terms of education. The aim of our project is to reach and educate as many children as we can, and also to learn while teaching children in various environments. Volunteer Education Projects, which is one of TDP’s longest-running projects, comprises three sub-projects: The School; University Personnel Support Project; and 29 Letters 1 Smile. The school volunteers tutor students from a school in one of Ankara’s socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods, while the University Personnel Support Project volunteers give similar assistance to children of Bilkent University nonacademic staff members. The third project, 29 Letters 1 Smile, helps Turkoman children learn to read and write in the Turkish language. We know that education isn’t just about classroom learning, however, so we also organize various social activities with the children every week. Thus, while helping them with their school lessons, we also support them in their overall intellectual and personal development. Although we weren’t able to bring the children to campus and conduct our activities in person last year due to the pandemic, we continued to carry out The School and University Personnel Support projects online. We couldn’t adapt 29 Letters 1 Smile to reach its target audience online, but instead of ceasing operation of this project, the volunteers instead made a connection with second-year pupils in a primary school in Eastern Anatolia and learned that even when teaching children that young, distance isn’t really an obstacle. This year, we’ll continue to expand our horizons to include all the children we can reach. If you want to join in this adventure where we aim to shape the future by helping children learn, you’re invited to become part of the Volunteer Education Projects!
Young Vision Project (GBP)
As Young Vision Project volunteers, we visit a TDP project every week with student volunteers from high schools we’ve established an association with. In this way, we aim to share our volunteering experiences with young people as well as make them more sensitive to their environment. At the same time, we get inspiration from their young ideas. Before visiting a project together, we provide training on how to communicate with its target audience. During the pandemic period, although we could not communicate in person with our high school volunteers, we organized activities that would increase their motivation and willingness to volunteer and improve their social and cultural skills. As well as participating in the activities of various TDP projects, we showed videos, offered one-to-one lectures, and conducted interactive seminars and training sessions. We also tried to lessen the pandemic-related social isolation for our high school volunteers by fostering lots of interaction. If you want to get to know TDP and enjoy spending time with young people, we invite you to join the Young Vision Project.