By Goncagul Ay – I met with the founder of Ilkyar Foundation, Professor Huseyin Vural at their office on the Middle East Technical University campus. It was a cozy space, filled with volunteer students helping with various tasks required to get the job done – providing support to children living in rural areas. One of the tasks involved writing letters to children from schools whom Professor Vural had previously visited. In one of the rooms, there was a huge desk with hundreds of letters piled on top of each other. “We should respond to these letters kids write to us. We need to let them know that we are here and that they aren’t alone.” said, Dr. Vural to one of the volunteers.
The key word for ILKYAR was “care.” The minute you walk into their office that feeling surrounds you – the generous act of caring for children and working to make a difference in the lives of thousands of village children. And, they have been successful as evident by the letters they receive.
Children living in rural areas , especially girls, have fewer opportunities for education in Turkey. 16 percent of children between the ages of 6-13 are out of school and 11 percent of those are girls. Access to quality education is a major concern in rural schools. They lack qualified teachers and school supplies. There is not a school in every village so children travel to other villages for schooling. 63 percent of people living in poverty reside in rural areas. All these add to children’s chances of dropping out. Poverty also stands in the way of schooling as parents lack the financial resources to send their kids to school. When there are financial concerns, having children help on the field takes over education. Girls are more likely to be kept at home since they can help with childcare, house chores and farming. These are the villages that Ilkyar Foundation knows too well. They work tirelessly to address all these challenges that are not always very evident to people in urban areas in Turkey.
Dr. Vural and his team don’t just send letters to kids in the villages. Since their inception in 1978, they donated more than 400,000 books to schools and more than 200,000 directly to students. Besides books, blackboards, encyclopedias, computers, telescopes, projectors, microscopes, TVs were donated to schools in villages. On the weekends, they pay visits to village schools to have reading sessions, scientific experiments and music classes. Apart from donations, competitions around literature and history have been established along with special programs such as Science Summer Camp and April 23 Children Festivities where children from villages travel to Ankara. Ilkyar Foundation’s eagerness to travel anywhere in Turkey – near or far inspires any philanthropist.
As I sat in their office listening to the logistics of these special programs, I see how determined they are to visit another village and touch many lives, one child at a time. I left their office with a heart filled with joy, compassion and a drive to do my best at what we do, which is connecting our donors with organizations like these.
Ilkyar Foundation now looks ahead and has launched a new project to provide scholarship to female students in rural areas. They have already helped send 150 female students to college and continue to support them with scholarships. You can support this project on December 19th, 2016 where TPF will match every donation that they receive at 30 percent. In the words of Dr. Vural, “Wouldn’t you like to do something for someone, especially for a stranger who is a village schoolgirl in pursuit of her right of education, by smoking fewer cigarettes, drinking fewer cups of coffee or tea, or postponing purchasing the favorite pair of jeans that you are planning to buy?” Next Stop Istanbul!