Since 1999, members of the TDP (Social Awareness Projects) student volunteer organization have served the community through a variety of projects; recently, TDP projects have been targeting 15 population groups. Many of these are children, but others range from high school students to refugee families to the elderly.Although the conditions of the pandemic period have made volunteer work much more complicated to carry out, TDP members are well aware that people need help more than ever during this difficult time. Adapting to the new normal, they have continued to reach out to the community by tailoring their activities according to current conditions.
For instance, TDP volunteers provide online lessons to students who need support to prevent them from falling behind from school. They also send letters to elderly residents of nursing homes who have not been able to see their family members during the pandemic, hoping to lessen their isolation and foster a sense of belonging and connectedness.
While some of the children TDP works with have internet access, many others do not. With this in mind, TDP volunteers prepare activity kits for children not served by the internet, while also holding Zoom events for children who are able to participate. They additionally prepare educational videos and small gifts. To facilitate communication with hearing-impaired children, TDP provides sign language training to volunteers via Zoom; for visually impaired children, volunteers record lessons.
TDP sends books to children living in villages, and prepares aid packages for village schools and refugee families. TDP members also mentor high school students who themselves are eager to begin the experience of volunteering, even during the pandemic. While TDP was working with Ankara high schools before COVID struck, the organization has since forged ties with schools in Erzurum and Sakarya as well, reaching even more students. Upcoming activities include two annual events, the TDP Summit and the Children’s Festival. The festival, scheduled for April 11, will be held both online and off by means of gift and activity packets.
The summit will take place online on April 3. Each year, TDP convenes a gathering of student volunteers from universities across Turkey, with invited speakers and panel sessions addressing a particular social issue. This year’s topic is violence against women, chosen in the hope of raising awareness concerning this serious problem.