ILKYAR is a voluntary foundation functioning with donations and the voluntary work of many volunteers. The primary aim of the foundation is to raise both financial and labor sources in order to reach children all around the country and to hand them books and the love to make them get used to reading. Much of the organizational work is done in the center of the foundation; but when it comes to meet with the children every single member of the foundation displays great effort and enthusiasm in the projects they are involved in. These projects basically carry the intention of meeting primary school children under difficult circumstances, especially in rural areas with no or limited access to books and educational resources.
The whole school is presented with a library containing many different kinds of books provided by the donators; hundreds of new books, all of which are in accordance with their ages and grades, are distributed to each and every child at the school. In the two or three days that are spent with the children in their own schools various activities are carried out with an aim to introduce them with basic sciences and help them gain reading habits. The children are often amazed with the interesting things they learn and the attention-catching experiments they watch. They get involved in literature sessions with children’s books of famous authors, the world classics and every type of children’s books. Visits to the schools in different regions and cities of Turkey leave incredible traces both on the children’s and the volunteers’ minds.
The foundation’s center gets flooded with letters from the children after each visit to a different school in a different city. Many volunteers keep on exchanging letters with the children for years. Seeing the sparkle burning in the eyes of children and the joy and excitement they get from reading their new books; witnessing the amazement and enthusiasm when they learn many new things motivate every single individual in the foundation to work harder and to reach many more children. Helping children to gain reading habits and become “book lovers” in a country where reading rate is pretty much below the world reading rate is what we have been struggling to succeed. Introducing even a single child with his/her first and the very best friend, namely a book, will make dreams come true.
The roots of ILKYAR lie in the EFES (Educational Funds for Elementary Schools) organization, founded by the Turkish Student Association at Princeton University (New Jersey, USA) in 1978. The aim of the organization is to stimulate educational activities in rural schools by giving financial support to found a basic library in these schools. The center of the organization first moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Boston, MA, USA) and then to Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI, USA).
Twenty years after its original establishment, in 1998, EFES was re- founded in Turkey with the name ILKYAR (Aid Foundation for Elementary Schools). The home of the foundation is located in Ankara. Within its fourty years of history, the organization has donated (as of december 2016) more than 500,000 books to schools and 200,000 books to students. Other than books toys have been presented to schools so that more than 200 toy-rooms have been established. Also, blackboards, sets of encyclopedias, computers, telescopes, overhead projectors, microscopes, TV, video sets have been donated to schools located in the rural and underdeveloped areas. Stationery, shoes and clothing have been distributed to children of these schools. Special gifts (some notebook, computers and bicycles) have been delivered to successful top students.
Mission & Vision
The mission of ILKYAR is to create opportunities for students in rural and underdeveloped areas so that they can commit themselves to their education. Our goal is to help the students in rural areas gain motivation for continuing their education, to leave no village schools without books, to organize programs for teachers working in rural areas. The objectives of ILKYAR are to increase the number of schools visited and supported with books, to reach more teachers and students to host them in special programs and summer schools, to promote all kinds of advertisement activities to raise funds for ILKYAR, to collaborate with other related organizations to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of ILKYAR, to increase communication with donors to gain even more benefactors via social channels and positive word-of-mouth.
It is hard to be a child if you live in an underdeveloped area of a developing country. You believe as if nobody is out there to hear you; there is a great distance and long roads between you and the rest of the world. This feeling is even more profound and vital at boarding schools (YIBOs, “Boarding District Schools for Secondary Education”). However, most YIBOs are based in small villages or towns far away from city centers. So, the village children have to continue their education in YIBOs, sometimes over a vast mountain range, sometimes at distances hard to travel due to harsh weather conditions. YIBO children have their own dreams, too, like all the children in the world. How can these children, who live in the areas mainly forgotten, make their dreams come true? Who will encourage them to follow their dreams?
Searching for Answers
Those are ILKYAR’s primary concerns. Considering them as fundamental questions, ILKYAR has visited YIBOs, sent books to villages, and established libraries in schools. ILKYAR has been searching for answers and solutions and encouraging students to gain motivation for continuing their education. ILKYAR perceives books as the main tools to reach children and expand their imagination. We know how a book may positively impact the image in a child’s mind.
Opening doors for new worlds
Therefore, ILKYAR’s book selection committee is composed of the foremost authors of children’s literature, literature teachers, and volunteers interested in literature, all aiming at selecting the best books for the children. The priority is given to the books that inspire children to think, provide enthusiasm and energy, and find the doors for new worlds. Isn’t it that the world can be big and yet small? By enriching their understanding of the world, we believe that these children will open the doors to new worlds and feel the energy to reach and embrace them.
Dreaming the future
It is not sufficient for ILKYAR solely to establish libraries consisting of books in line with those sensitivities. ILKYAR organizes literature activities to increase children’s interest in the literature and illustrate how a poem, a novel, or a story can shape a person’s life. ILKYAR occasionally demonstrates how the dark clouds turn into the sunshine, how open is the path for a child to travel to space, conveying the idea that it is not hard to have dreams and follow them. ILKYAR tells the children there are so many children on earth like them. It is possible to reach them even with the assistance of a single book about the other worlds they want to experience.
Touching the books
ILKYAR emphasizes that the people who make outstanding, earthshaking discoveries and inventions are not those who aimlessly waste hours in front of a television. In fact, they are the ones who succeed in thinking up new dreams as they live among books, printed or digital, day and night. ILKYAR enables children to touch books and organize their own libraries, feeling and getting to know each book one by one.
ILKYAR encourages children to write. Asking the questions, “how does an author write?”, “could you be an author?” ILKYAR persuades them they could do the same. Giving them a pencil and a piece of paper or encouraging them to write a story in their mind without the need ort he paper, allows trying for the ones reluctant to write. Then the magic happens, and children start expressing themselves. They tell the story of a shepherd in their hometown, sometimes the self-tailored story of “snow white and seven dwarfs”, even their individual tales shared by a thousand different children as in the “Tales of the 1001 Nights”. ILKYAR says each child is unique and special, having distinct ideas; so, they should imagine without restraint to write express their capacity in writing, aiming at making them aware of their skills in imagination and writing. In turn, children recognize that authors can contemplate and imagine extensively, which can only be made possible by reading. So, they share this comprehension with ILKYAR.
A reason for happiness
ILKYAR values continuous education, so claims that it is not sufficient to visit YIBOs, establish libraries, and introduce books and authors to children. One has to go beyond that to answer the questions. ILKYAR believes in change. The progressive transformation of even one child is a reason for happiness. As a matter of fact, we keep an eye on them throughout their education, and the children share their success with ILKYAR through letters. Believing that each child is unique, ILKYAR wishes to follow them to witness what they achieve in time. That is why it exchanges letters. It aims to reinforce the brotherhood and sisterhood formed between the volunteers who visited YIBOs and the children. More than 5,000 letters are written every year to YIBO children all around Turkey. The books they read, the short essays they write, their dreams, thoughts, and aims are all shared through those letters.
Breathing the same air
When ILKYAR visits a YIBO, aiming to understand the students and convey the message that they are not different from the world’s children, the volunteers share the same environment throughout the whole stay. Instead of staying at a comfortable hotel elsewhere, they stay in the dormitory rooms allocated for the volunteers, breathing the same air with the children. Before they fall asleep, the volunteers read stories to the children. Sometimes through a story of a white whale, sometimes through the success of a lazy student, sometimes through the story of a white butterfly, and sometimes through the figure of Polyanna or Jane Eyre who coped with difficulties, they explain the reason for their presence there as ILKYAR volunteers. They talk about the changes and progressions the children might accomplish when they love to read stories. Their dreams in sleep, about better lives and better worlds, are considered the signs to follow dreaming of a better future. ILKYAR demonstrates that they can make this come true, not only through best wishes but also through real stories.
No children left behind, who cannot read
ILKYAR aims to build up interest and excitement among children and believes books bestow the essential power to accomplish it. ILKYAR has an aim that can go ad infinitum: Not to leave any YIBO unvisited… Considering that children have significant changes in their development every 3-4 years, the loop will start all over again. ILKYAR aims at visiting each and every YIBO student in Turkey, from the east to the west, from the north to the south, to tell them how important is to be friends with books. ILKYAR has adopted this saying as its main principle: there should be no children left who cannot read.
Letters From Children
|“She said some books will come to us from America. Me and my friends were so happy, while sitting in my desk, I felt as I was lifted into the air. I couldn’t stand still. Our teacher read a story from one of those books and I felt a little bit calm. Our teacher read the names of the books. They were very beautiful. I liked them very much.”|
|“We arranged the books together with our teacher. All of us took one book. I don’t know the others but I liked my book very much. I will read more books. I finished two and started the third one and I will read more. The books are very exciting. When I heard that they came from America I was very curious.”|
|“Your books are very beautiful. When I read them I saw that they are beautiful. They are so beatiful I’ve never read such books before. There are very beautiful stories in them. I like reading books very much. We loved your books so much. We are reading them with our friends. I’ve never seen such beautiful books before. Beautiful stories, poems, tales. You made us happy. Thank you.”|
“In short time, I attained the educational level I should be at. Now I build up on my aims. I know that I should read books as you said and I should study harder in order to reach the occupation I want. Thus I study in the way it should be and I read lots of books. I take your advises because I know that only in this way I can achieve. I do not know what kind of difficulties are waiting for me in terms of education.”
|“I have never forgotten the time we spent here together. You made us very happy. I have read nearly all of the books you brought us and I summarized them separately. Now, I read several books. Our Turkish teacher is trying to make us gain reading habist. When I read a book, I improve myself. Previously, I used to give up reading a book since I used to get bored when I did not understand what is mentioned in that book. Now I have also got the habit of choosing books.”|
|“Dear teacher, as I want to express here, I have learned a lesson from the things you explained to us. Now I read books at my leisure time and in this way, I enrich my vocabulary. By the way, I am a student of 8/C.”|
|“With your visit here everything has changed. The desire and cheer of all of my friends and me for life have blossomed. Now everyone eagerly reads the books you have brought us. All of the books are more excellent than one another. Thank you for all of these. You are very warm hearted. Believe that I am writing whole-heartedly what I feel.|
|“Dear Elder Brother Arda|
I could not forget you after I came back from Ankara. Anyway, it is impossible to forget the excellent and plentiful things experienced. I am going to study hard to experience the same things with you. You fired my enthusiasm for reading. I hope you are doing well. I am so happy to meet you that I cannot express myself with words.
Thank Uncle Hüseyin very much for founding this endowed charity. Though I feel such beautiful things deep inside, I cannot express them. Thank you very much for your help to make me gain the enthusiasm for reading.”
|Thank you for your help. And we hope that you continue to help us. We will love you as long as you help us. I will study and I will have a prestigious position. At every step, I will remember you since every book I read is a step for me. I believe that as long as you help us, I can follow these steps one by one. Now I read books and I do not waste my time by playing futile games. Each book you donate means an individual who is integrated into the society. I am able to pass on the knowledge I get from the books I read to my friends. I am able to make myself useful for the people around me. I make my siblings love reading. I believe that I have become a useful person. I will love reading more as long as you help. |
Previously children used to play with marbles. After books and computers came to our school, children ceased to play marbles. They use computers and read books.
Our teachers give us homework. Whenever we cannot do our homework, we go to the library. There we find how we can do our homework. When we get bored, we play computer games and read story books. I want to bring more books to our library.”
“Dear İLKYAR members,
Thank you for your help and we hope you continue to help us.
I think your help is like a brotherly hand which is stretched from west to east with a spring spreading culture. This spring will flow among us for long years and it will be a sign of our brotherhood.
Some of our friends had never seen any computers and had not read any books before you sent us but now we can play computer games and read books. I believe that all of us will be beneficent people in the future.
With my friends I used to go to other districts and cities to be able to write our term papers before your help. Some of my friends could not afford to do so. Our siblings could not read books. They used to play football in leisure time but now they read books. Now I can understand better how much it is important to read books. It will enable me to be useful firstly for myself and then for the society.
Reading is a spring of culture. The more I read, the more I will bring the water of this spring to people around me. Every book you donate means a useful person for the society. In the future, you will harvest the crop that you plant now. When I have a prestigious position, I will not forget your help.
I love reading. The more I read, the more I love you and I will not forget you. We hope you will continue to help us.
Thank you on behalf of my school, my friends and myself.”