Posts Tagged ‘Children of Hope Association’

Yesterday I moved from my beloved neighborhood of Beşiktaş into a hostel in, my less than favorite area, Taksim. The hostel is adequate, but slightly terrible but at least I have my own room. Regardless, it’s home for the next 10 days.

I am in Istanbul alone now; all the girls from my school program have left to either travel elsewhere or go home.  The city has changed for me since their departure. I still love this place deeply and feel like it is home, but I find myself hesitant to explore much on my own. I guess I just need to adjust to being on my own here. I have done so much traveling on my own and it has always been positive. Sometimes it just takes me a minute to switch into solo mode.

One thing that I am doing while I am still here is trying to write an article on Children of Hope, the organization that I have been working with since I got here. Bürde, my friend and  interpreter, and I paid the organization a visit yesterday for yet another interview with Ferat Şahin, the organization’s director.

Much to my surprise, the afternoon found me sitting across from Ferat and taking one of the worst beatings at Tavla (Backgammon) I have ever received. He crushed me 5 games in a row (and I am not that terrible a player), but it was all in good fun. He is possibly the best Tavla player I have ever encountered and as a result, I find myself in debt to the organization’s kids for a hefty helping of Baklava. Ferat said I don’t have to pay my “debt” but I will and I want to.

So we sat down for another long talk. I had a million questions to ask him and he had a million answers for me. All in all the interview went well and I no longer felt like Ferat was sick of my thousands of questions; I think the Tavla games helped. My goal for this interview was different than the previous ones. Since I have extra time here, I am trying to write an article on the organization in order to submit it to the Hurriyet Daily News here in Istanbul in the hopes of getting it published and of raising some awareness and possibly even some help for them. At the same time I am attempting to put together a package on the organization in order to submit it to some other, international organizations with the hope of drumming up some resources for CHA.

It’s not everyday that I have the opportunity to work with an organization like this or that I get to try to help an organization like this. As a journalist I am sure that I will encounter several more organizations during my career, and I probably won’t be able to help them all, but I have the time and the resources to do it here and so I have decided to give it a go. CHA has earned a special place in my heart.

Peace and Love.

Today was a day for multiple interviews, love poems, hanging with some cool people, a random act of kindness and generosity, and lots and lots of laughter. My heart is peaceful and full.

I went to Children of Hope today for a second interview with Ferat Şahin and ended up conducting a total of six interviews. Ferat was not there when we got to CHA, which was unexpected because he was the whole reason I was there in the first place and the only person I had prepared interview questions for. So I conferred with Bürde, my interpreter, for a minute and we decided that this would be a good opportunity to interview some of the residents and volunteers. They were really excited to have us there and really curious about us. We sat at an outdoor table and were instantly surrounded by curious onlookers. I figured that it would be best to talk with one person at a time and so we got started.

CHA is only allowed to house “kids” 18 and older, so the residents there were mostly young adults, although Ferat made it clear that he will never turn anyone away. Occasionally “kids” under 18 are given permission by the social workers to stay with CHA instead, but most of the time they end up in group homes until they are 18 (after which they usually end up back on the streets). Any minor that Ferat takes off the streets, and there have been hundreds of them, must be turned over to social workers. The system is terribly flawed as most of the kids turned over to social workers run away from their group homes and end up back on the streets and back on drugs.

The first “kid” I interviewed was a resident whom I am going to call “C”. He is 26 years old and has been living at CHA for the past few years. He was reluctant to talk to me about his family life only saying “I don’t have a good life story. That’s why I don’t want to tell you about it.” He said that he lived for many years on the streets using drugs and stealing to survive. When I asked him to share with me a little bit about what his life was like in the streets, he would only say “There is nothing much to tell, but the streets are like a hole that can suck people in.” I’m not gonna lie, I was disappointed that he wasn’t willing to share more with me. Despite being 26, he looked so young and his eyes had a look of deep sadness behind them. At the same time I found gratitude to CHA, for giving me the opportunity to meet this boy and, most importantly, for giving him a second chance.

The second “kid” I interviewed was also a resident that I am going to call “Y”. He is 16 years old and has been living at CHA for the past 3 or 4 months. He couldn’t really give me a time estimate as for how long he has been living on the streets. He did say that he came from an unhappy family life and ran away to escape it. Currently he is battling with addiction. CHA works hard to help kids get off drugs and turn their lives around, but there is no formal treatment for them (and there is definitely no 12 step approach). “Y” says that he wants to stop using drugs but he can’t.  It was hard to see this kid and hear the parts of his story he was willing to share. He didn’t look much older than my own son; he just looked like a little kid.

The drug that seems to be popular among the street kids here in Istanbul is called Tiner, which is Turkish for Paint Thinner. It is cheap, accessible and a real problem for the these kids. It was mentioned to me that these kids need the drugs in order to survive on the streets and Ferat mentioned to me that drugs in Istanbul are getting cheaper, more plentiful and easier to find – a bad combination for kids on the street.

The last interview that I am going to share about was with a “kid” that I am going to call “O”. He is 19 and is one of the newer residents at CHA. This kid was a reporter’s dream (for the most part). He was open, charming, and talkative. He shared with me that he started living on the streets when he was 13 (the same age as my son), when he ran away from the domestic violence in his home. He survived by begging and asking food stands for yesterday’s food. He used drugs. He had been hit by 3 cars, during his time on the streets, and one of the accidents has permanently damaged one of his hands, which limits the type of work he can do. Today he lives at CHA and  is looking for work. He loves to write poetry and he insisted on writing a poem for me. He dictated to my interpreter and she wrote it down and then translated it for me. It was a really sweet little  love poem. Words cannot even describe how full my heart was after talking to this boy and how happy it made me to see him happy and smiling and healthy. I think I might see if I can use him for my feature piece – Street Kid Turned Poet? Has a kinda cool ring to it…

There were more interviews too. I have 40+ pages of notes to organize and type. It was such a beautifully full day today. My spirit is happy, my heart is full and my head is quiet. Who could ask for anything more?

Peace and Love.