It’s about time to get to know a bit more about our volunteers. Here is a short interview with Ezgi, one of our volunteers during Kids’ Fun Time and English club.

Where are you from?

I was born in Istanbul but moved to the US when I was ten years old. I have lived there for thirty years, with very few opportunities to come back for visits. Last year, I left my job to take some time off to travel. I came to Istanbul to visit my family and decided to extend my stay. It has given me the wonderful opportunity to reconnect with my roots and improve my Turkish. I spend my time here teaching English to children online and exploring all that Istanbul has to offer. Turkey is truly an amazing country and I feel so lucky to be living in one of the best cities in the world!

How did you hear about Small Projects Istanbul (SPI) and what made you want to volunteer with us?

Volunteering has always been a big part of my life. I spent two years in AmeriCorps during my time at university. Most recently, I worked with Nationalities Service Center in my hometown of Philadelphia, an organization that advocates for refugees and immigrants. I wanted to continue that work so I did research to find similar organizations in Istanbul. I found SPI and was immediately moved to work with them in some way. 

What do you do at SPI? What do you like most about volunteering at SPI?

On Wednesdays, we do arts and crafts during Kids’ Fun Time. On Fridays, I help with children’s English classes. I adore children. They are simple, pure and without agenda. I believe the most important thing you can give children is your attention. To let them feel seen and heard. Children that have had to move here under difficult circumstances really need this. We like to say that “children are resilient.” Indeed they are, but they are not immune to developing scars. My work with the children at SPI has not only been personally healing for me, but the most fulfilling time I’ve spent in Istanbul.

Why is volunteering at SPI important to you? Why is it important for other Turkish citizens to engage in volunteering with displaced communities?

It is easy to form opinions about people from afar. Volunteering at organizations like SPI brings attention to the human condition. To real people, with real stories.

I recently read Paulo Coelho’s lovely novel called “The Alchemist.” In it, the author introduces us to “Language of the World,” a language understood by everyone. I think about this often during my time at SPI. At any given moment, there are at least three languages spoken in our classrooms. However, this never interferes with our work because children understand the Language of the World, a “language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired.” We can learn a lot from children. This is why I gleefully make that trip to Fatih every week. Because at the end of the day, we are all just people trying to navigate life. And everybody deserves a life of love and purpose.


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