From Ridgewood to Turkey

For as long as I can remember, I have been spending my summers in Turkey. Although I have lived in America for the majority of my life, I have felt a strong connection to my Turkish identity. Each year when I visit my home country, I get a renewed sense of warmth and happiness. Yet every time I go, I am left with a feeling of despair for all of the children in Turkey are not able to access enough materials to be able to learn to their full potentials. Teachers all across Turkey struggle to give their students a well-rounded education. A large amount of schools are unable to provide the basic necessities for a child to develop cognitively and socially. Oftentimes, in rural towns, there are many children who do not even have the opportunity to go to school because they have to help their families through the use of labor, or simply because their towns do not have schools built. This grave situation has contributed to many children not being able to have jobs later on in life, thus leading to lifelong hardships.

After seeing the difficult journeys of many Turkish schoolchildren, I decided that I wanted to do my part as a Turkish teenager living in America. I stumbled upon the Bridge to Turkiye Fund in my hometown in New Jersey and quickly fell in love with their goals and efforts. Luckily, around my area there were a lot of engagements with BTF, so I attended the annual run to help raise money for schools in Turkey and began my own fundraiser. After raising $2,675 over the course of a few months, I couldn’t wait to give this aid to schools all across Turkey who were in need of classroom supplies and teachers. A portion of the raised money went towards Mustafalar Ilkokulu in Adana by providing dictionaries4kids. Another portion went to Yesilkoy Okulu in Diyarbakir donating books4kids. In addition, some went to Hatunkomu Ilkokulu in Agri towards educationaltoys4kids, Alankus Ilkokulu in Mardin received educationaltoys4kids, Mehmet Akif Ersoy Ilkokulu in Bursa received books4kids, and Erence Ilkokulu in Erzurum received dictionaries4kids. Many of these schools were in dire need for classroom resources and our help has aided them in gaining many new possibilities.

Below are some photographs of students’ happy faces upon receiving their new classroom materials and educational toys. These children are all from Alankus Ilkokulu where they spend most of their time away from home. Being able to learn through the use of interactive fun and engagement is critical to young kids and I’m so happy that they were able to receive toys that would help them enjoy school and really become interested in learning.

Overall, this experience has really been a great journey and has shown me how a little thought can go a long way and can really improve and shape the lives of young children. I hope to continue in aiding this cause in efforts to improve the learning conditions for young students in need all across Turkey and hopefully see a positive change in my home country.