Few years ago, a group of teenagers did something remarkable, something many of us never bothered or considered before. They tried to imagine the difficult conditions of young people in juvenile detention centers. They pictured themselves growing behind the bars and tried to comprehend spending years in an enclosed space. They understood that finding a totally different world after being released was not easy. That group of teenagers was none other than TOG (Community Volunteers Foundation) volunteers. They realize that for some youth, adolescence presents challenges beyond the ones they face, and these evolve from the social and economic conditions they live in. That’s when the idea came to them, they were going to tear down the walls between imprisoned children and the society. Their method was simple yet effective – through visits. They set to work immediately. They started to visit juvenile detention centers and organized drama, music, drawing and literature workshops with the incarcerated youth. These young people were spending their time behind bars, when others are finishing college, accumulating job experience and transitioning to responsible adulthood. The goal of the program became empowering these young people so they can discover their talents and look positively to meaningful opportunities they’ll come across in life. The program started ten years ago. As TOG volunteers were inspired by the notion that we all look at the same sky, they named the project: Looking at the Same Sky. Since beginning, TOG volunteers reached over 1,500 imprisoned children in many cities all over Turkey, helped them ease their way to a normal life.
Looking at the Same Sky project came to life through the simple yet effective structure of TOG. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, TOG provides various empowerment opportunities to young individuals. Their most impactful project is the TOG Mentoring project, which matches young individuals who struggle economically and socially with adult volunteers based on their interests and needs. The mentor guides the mentee getting her ready for professional life. Part of the program is to encourage TOG volunteers to contribute to our society by creating and actively participating in social responsibility projects. Looking at the Same Sky project is an outcome. Take a look at TOG’s projects and join us in empowering youth in Turkey.