TDP’s Street Lamp Project got its start in 2004, with 30 volunteers helping 34 young students. Since that time, the project has carried out its work each year by choosing a school in one of the Ankara neighborhoods that are disadvantaged in terms of educational opportunities and financial wherewithal, and engaging with children there who have been working in the streets or are likely to do so. The project’s name refers both to the children’s probability of working in the streets and to our aim of providing them with new perspectives and thoughts, leading to awareness and self-confidence. That is to say, street lamps are capable of lighting up the environment and therefore are beneficial to the public; our purpose is to light up these children’s paths to the future and help ensure that they will be able to fulfill their potential.
Currently, SLP has 120 volunteers, who are working with 40 students. The students who participate in the project’s weekly activities are mostly in fourth grade. The activities take place every Sunday, with the location alternating between the Bilkent campus one week, and an off-campus site the next. At Bilkent, volunteers organize activities such as quizzes and debates, or assist the children in writing and performing theatrical pieces, in order to help them increase their cultural knowledge and develop self-confidence by expressing themselves in front of an audience. The off-campus activities range from meeting magicians to taking trips to aquariums or museums, places the children may never have been before. Also, during trips to such sites as Anıtkabir or the Feza Gürsey Science Center, participants have the opportunity to build on knowledge they have already acquired in their daily lives. Briefly, through all these activities, we aim to contribute to the self-improvement of the children.
During the precious time we spend with them every Sunday, we try to create a secure atmosphere in which we are always sincere and helpful, so that they feel they can consult us without hesitation in case of any problems. We try to solve their problems by offering advice and, importantly, by not creating additional tensions. When one of us comes across a child behaving in an undesirable way, we talk about it without expressing annoyance and explain in a friendly manner why such behavior is wrong, so that the child will not do the same thing again.
A good atmosphere and good relations exist among the volunteers as well. For instance, even though we have received training on how to communicate with children, we may from time to time encounter unexpected situations in which we are uncertain what to say or how to act. In such situations, we always consult one another, discuss what has happened and ask the more experienced volunteers among us for advice.
Unfortunately, not every child is born lucky, and not all children have the same advantages. We volunteers, who are like older sisters and brothers for the SLP children, always do our best to bring them to an equal level with other children and always work hard to bring a little smile to their faces. We try to empathize with them, search for solutions to their problems and also have fun with them, enjoying shared activities as much as if we were children, too. Above all, we try to serve as role models for the children and help them in ways that will lead to differences in their daily lives.
The truth is, seeing smiles on their faces and changes in their lives as a result of our efforts is priceless.
Basically, all we want to say is that being an SLP volunteer means serving as a glimmer of hope for children who need it, and experiencing the happiness of sharing with one another as well as helping.
Please don’t forget that children are our future.