The Beginning of the Story: A Social Responsibility Project in SELI

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I had never thought about teaching visually impaired students in my life before November 2011. Teaching students who can perfectly see was already challenging. If you are a teacher, you have to consider different needs of the students, their motivation levels, how to engage them into the lessons with various enjoyable and challenging activities catering for the needs of students with different learning styles and so on. Also, I had never met a blind student during my education and professional life before, so the world of the blinds was totally strange to me. I did not even know what the proper way to talk to them was if there was any. Ignorant of the existence of that “new” world, I suddenly found myself with a lot of blind children full of life. If you are interested in how I met them, here is my story:

In November, 2011 I got an email message from the deputy director of SELI, Aybike Oguz, telling that a social responsibility project in SELI was about to start. In the email message it was stated that Nergis Akbay, the director of SELI, and Aybike Oguz had had meetings with different parties including some of the prep students at university to involve prep students in social responsibility projects. As a result of all the meetings, discussions and feedback they got from different parties, they decided to offer projects to prep students who were interested in social responsibility on a voluntary basis and start a pilot project with Jason Lau, the social entrepreneurship supervisor. Since it was a pilot project, Aybike would ask only 10 students from the prep program to give tutorials to visually impaired primary school students in subjects like English and Maths. She had already announced the project in two of the classes that she taught. If the project turned out to be a success, SELI management would consider including more students in similar projects. The volunteers would work with Parilti Dernegi (the link for the website of the foundation was also provided in the email: www.parilti.org.tr), and the interested names would be given an orientation program on November 19 in Buyukdere Caddesi Bentek Is Merkezi No: 47 Daire: 2 Mecidiyekoy. 10 of SELI students would attend that orientation program, but SELI management also would like to have one or two SELI faculty in that orientation program. If we were interested in going to that orientation program, we were supposed to send our names to Aybike.

As a volunteer who had participated in and organized several social responsibility projects, I sent my name to Aybike. 5 days later we were going to gather at Parilti Dernegi to meet Seray Oney, the general secretary at Parilti Dernegi, and learn what we could do to help the blind children who come to the foundation from Istanbul and different cities like Izmir, Denizli, Canakkale and Izmit in Turkey on a weekly basis to get support or supplementary courses. So this was the beginning of the story. A new page was opened in my life.

P.S. The logo was created by Omer Faruk Yilmaz, my previous student at Ihsan Dogramaci Foundation Bilkent Erzurum Laboratory High School, for the Social Awareness Club that I set up.

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In the Dark

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Have you ever tried eating in the dark or by using a blindfold? Some people say it is good to eat eyes closed to get the real taste of the food. And I have also learned that in many gourmet restaurants blindfolded food tasting is very popular. Thus, it is not surprising that the senses of visually impaired people are more evolved than other people’s except for sight. At the Disabled Week, some students from Duyarli OzU (the Social Awareness Club at Ozyegin University) organized an event in the cafeteria of Ozyegin University. They had all the staff and students have their lunch in the dark. They even blindfolded the volunteers’ eyes, and I was one of them.

I had my eyes blindfolded only when I played blind man’s bluff with my friends when I was a little girl. Thus, that was the first time for me to experience eating in the dark. I have to say that it is not easy. To find the spoon and the fork, I touched my meal several times. I was extra careful while eating my soup in order not to spill it on my clothes. I could not use the knife to cut my chicken into small pieces, so I ate it with my hands. It was so strange not to be able to see what I was eating. What if there was something unexpected or unwanted inside the meal? It was quite an experience for me to appreciate what I own as a healthy person. On the other hand, there are those people who have to eat in the dark all the time. How do they feel while eating? Do they enjoy their food more than us? Are they not curious about the color of the food that they eat? When they are told a color, how do they understand what the color is like? These kinds of questions in mind, I think the event achieved its aim.