Selin Toprakkıran L12 reflects on returning to Yenişakran each year as part of an ongoing CIP project.
Istanbul, May 2014: “This CIP is going to be the worst, I know no one there. There’s only a girl from my class called İrem. I really don’t want to go.” Starting with these thoughts, I ended the Yenişakran CIP in a place far from my prejudices. I bonded with the kids so strongly that I couldn’t help my tears when leaving.
Istanbul, May 2015: “İrem and I don’t know Melisa at all. I wonder what she’s like. Will we get along well as the leaders? Will this group be able to manage crisis?” I went to Yenişakran with these worries and spent an amazing week there. Our group was full of people who worked hard as a team, listened to and watched out for each other. After doing such an intense project, we stuck together and maintained our friendships. It was one of the best weeks of my life and I cried once again when leaving.
Istanbul, May 2016: “We can overcome anything together.” As the leaders, Melisa, İrem and I communicated this well for the first time. We solved problems with the speed that knowing each other gave us. With gratitude, sorrow and longing, tears in my eyes, I left Yenişakran.
At the end of each project, I couldn’t help shedding tears at leaving the kids. Our experiences together taught me so much. I think the most valuable lesson I learned was how to care deeply for something.
Umut’s smile as he yelled “My sisters and brothers!” and ran towards us from the Aliağa service bus every day. I learned to be happy or sad with the kids. However, even if Umut was hungry for love since he never received affection from his parents, I also learned that I wasn’t the one to fufill that need.
When Erdoğan left the lunch table during a daily fit of nerves, and I ran after him knowing that he’d be hungry if he missed lunch, I realized that his goal was to see if someone else was willing to make themselves miserable for him. I learned that running after someone may not be the best way to regain that person.
I saw that feeling pity towards Samet, even if he came from the streets and had been abused, was not the best way to approach him, because it would alienate him.
Even if I loved Ramazan very much, when he started hitting my head and persisted when I asked him not to, I realized that kids could reflect how they were treated in the past. I learned that I had to protect myself from the abuse they had been exposed to.
I saw that a kid like Veysi, who loved to be mischievous, could be easy-going and hardworking once he removed his mask. I realised that even kids hid behind masks. When Rodi said “It doesn’t matter to me if I was born in a female or male body as long as I get to keep my personality the same,” I learned that no matter what their educational background was, some kids could be more open minded than college graduates.
Although İpek didn’t like to listen to anyone else or obey the rules, after I taught her how to swim, she always listened to me. I noticed that kids took you seriously if they trusted you.
When Helin was criticized for her accent by another kid and defended herself by saying, “This is the way I talk!”, I understood that kids could be exposed to or could expose others to discrimination.
Kids are not that different from adults. As I got to know them, I learned valuable lessons about humanity. I hope that they also learned a few things from us as well. What kept bringing me back to Yenişakran every year was this hope. Robert College gave me the most valuable experiences of my high school years by providing me with this opportunity. I’m grateful to everyone who was with me on this journey.