Gönüllü Eğitim Projesi, or GEP (the Voluntary Education Project), was implemented by the Bilkent University student volunteer organization TDP (Social Awareness Projects) as their first ongoing project, with the goal of helping young students from impoverished backgrounds in their educational endeavors. Now, almost 17 years later, GEP still helps primary, middle and secondary school pupils academically, but with an updated sense of purpose and curriculum.
To help prepare the youngsters for their roles as active participants in 21st-century society, project volunteers introduce students to a wide selection of subjects that they might not be exposed to in a conventional curriculum. For instance, GEP’s most popular event last semester was “Coding Sisters,” organized in partnership with BILWIC (Bilkent Women in Computing), Oracle and the Internet Society’s Turkey chapter. The project, which had the goal of optimizing opportunities for girls to become involved in the STEM fields and internet studies, represented Turkey in the finals of the Internet Society’s Chapterthon 2017 and was named the best project worldwide at the 2017 Internet Governance Forum in Geneva, Switzerland.
Another example of GEP’s outreach to Ankara’s young students is its “29 Harf 1 Gülümseme” campaign – in English, “29 Letters, 1 Smile,” a reference to the 29-letter Turkish alphabet. Every Sunday, children from immigrant families who cannot proceed with their education due to illiteracy in Turkish come to the Bilkent campus where they get help learning to read and write in their host country’s language.
And on Saturdays, you can find primary school children here working on English as a second language, and middle and secondary school students learning programming. After each week’s educational activities, the children participate in an hour-long social activity class that has a different theme every time.
GEP frequently cooperates with academicians, businesses, volunteers from the community and other student clubs to give “their kids” the best academic assistance available along with a unique opportunity to experience social life on campus. So, don’t be surprised if sometime during the coming weekends you see a group of young students running from one building to another!