2 Eylül 2014 Salı

The Utopia of Peace Village

It was born very little but it grew up very fast. Its roots have gone deeper inside the earth and the branches stretched happily to the sky in a short time. It has turned out to be a huge tree where hundreds of people can sit underneath. This is Live with Us Share with Us Children Programme (LUSUP).
LUSUP took place with 22 volunteers coming from Spain (Catalonia), Romania (Transylvania), Guatemala, France, Iran and Turkey and 70 local children in Ekinci (Aydi-Former name-Arabic), a village of Antakya in Turkey this summer again. It was clear that the programme left distinctive influence behind it. The Servas (www.servas.org) volunteers hosted by local families studied environmental issues, peace, art, music, creative drama, different languages, chess, played children games and did reading activities with children. They displayed short movies, did radio interviews, country presentations, multi-lingual choir, taught how to make Origami enthusiastically. “The program area turned out to be a Servas Campus” as Catalan Volunteer Quim described. The house yard, the streets and the big garden named Amazon were the places for sharing, learning, having fun, thinking and discovery.
One of the participant children named Çınar said; “I love Servas because we learn different things here.” The programme aims to reach exactly this goal. It succeeds it by bringing people from all around the world into the village through the volunteers, introducing new ideas, activities, programmes, games, languages and different cultures of world to the local children. It is a mutual transfer of the knowledge, experience and background. The children receive new ideas whereas volunteers learn vast cultural diversity of Antakya (Antioch) through children, local volunteers and people. We let new fresh waters to join the lake and open new canals to water different lands. There are lots of options in life and children need to know them in their earlier ages to
experience more colourful lives is another motivation of the programme. Another participant child, Ali said; “I even didn’t know where Guatemala was. Now, I have two friends (Paulina&Isabel, 16) from this country. They are so sweet.” Adela, 65, who brought her two granddaughters from Guatemala to allow them experience the cultural diversity in Turkey and this programme felt very good believing that she did the right thing after hearing Ali’s words.
Different languages different lives…
Children started the day saying “Good Morning” in Arabic, Turkish, Catalan, Hungarian, Spanish, Greek and other languages. They learnt how to say peace, colours in these languages and also sing. The songs of multi-lingual choir left a great effect on children and families. The goal was to raise awareness towards languages. We were relieved when we heard colorful words coming from the mouths of children at the Servas Campus every day. The goal was met. The views of Catalan (volunteer) therapist on the children’s language ability were not surprising. Quim said; “Kids can pronounce words in
different languages easily and learn them quickly. They can also sing. This is something amazing.” The reason, actually, is that the kids usually grow up bilingual (Arabic-Turkish) in the region of Antakya. They discover their mother tongue, Arabic, which is now fading away day by day, and learn about other languages through this programme. It is obvious that the child who is involved in many languages shows the highest possibility of becoming a peace lover in the following stages of her/his life. Not only the language sessions but also most of the activities carried out within LUSUP aim to plant colourful peace seeds in children.    
Local people experiencing discoveries…
“Our parents started to feel proud of us once we started to communicate in English with the volunteers. Because they liked the volunteers and appreciated their effort they did for the local kids.  The idea of going abroad did not sound strange to them now” said Selen, one of the local translators studying English language at University. Muhterem, who hosted a volunteer, tells; “People coming from every corner of the world try to learn our culture. They like and respect it. They learn Arabic and Turkish words. Also, they try to learn the different cultural aspects of Antakya. Honestly, I am also becoming more aware of my culture each time they ask me questions.” Another host, Semire, explains; “Marina from Catalonia, asks many questions about our life, traditions and meals. When my daughter Esra (local translator) fails to answer some of the questions she asks me or her father. Esra is becoming more curious about life here and in the world.” Local children get to know new people and they learn how to trust
people coming from different cultures and learn from them. 10-year old girl Yaren says; “I love Servas people because they are good hearted.” Isn’t it a precious experience at this age of the children? Arzu, who is keen on art, says; “we walked through the old streets of Antakya. We lay down and painted the lovely pictures of the church with lovely orange trees and the well. We also visited the mosque and the synagogue a few meters far from the church. It was amazing!” The kids are introduced with the value of ‘living together despite the differences’ through the vast and old experience of Antakya.
The young woman, Ela, who hosted the Iranian volunteer Nasim deals with communication problems via
google translate. She is talking joyfully while patting her baby in her lap; “Nasim cooked Persian food for us. They tasted very different. I think I can learn English until next year. Don’t forget, Mehmet. I want to host at least one Servas teacher every summer.” I note it down.
LUSUP and Servas seeds like these lands and they have blossomed very quickly. The village has become part of the world information and culture network in six years of time. A new generation who are familiar with global thinking has grown up now.
Volunteers are teaching and learning…
Volunteers, arriving with different predictions, knowledge, cultural background and expectations in Antakya
(40 km far from border of Syria) notice in the face of local people broad smiles and welcoming (Ehlen Vesehlen-Arabic) expressions at the very beginning. Living together with host families creates a magical power which brings people very close in a short time. Any prejudices or hesitations disappear.
The sightseeing tours organised for volunteers allows them discover the multicultural life background of Antakya. Once they learn that different religions have been living together and touching each other for ages they realise that they are in an unusual spot of the world. At that moment I try to explain, Szerénke, coming from Transylvania; “Turkey has many faces. Antakya is just one of those many faces.”
The children, instead of going home at night, worked like ants to learn from their photography teachers
(Esra&Fatih) how to write names with light through photo cameras. The next day children went photo safari to shoot photos on friendship, helping others and love during the hot sunny day. Looking at the results, Fatih said; “The children have sensitive souls and curious eyes. They really excited me. I felt just like them. We found ourselves planning the next year photography topics.”
Chess trainer, Erdem, didn’t expect such big interest for chess. He got lost with kids holding their chess tables in the deep spots of the fruit garden every day. We sometimes forgot them and they also forgot the
time despite the approaching darkness.
Experienced volunteer Zuleyha brought the Little Prince into the village. Children loved him. They read a piece of his adventures every morning, discussed his philosophy, did role plays and wrote him letters.  At the end, volunteer artist, Leonie, painted Little Prince in the wall picture (Wonderland) she created with the kids. Little Prince visited the kids in the village and introduced his little planets to make discoveries about life.
The atmosphere that the programme created in the village was amazing just like every year. Quim says; “there is a lovely feeling in the streets and people. I see positive things everywhere. Lots of suprises. Lots of different things”.  Nasim ; we are always
surrounded with children. They try to communicate and learn from us. Very curious and polite.” Reka; “what kind of a place is a village? How do the houses look like from inside? I can find answers for these questions through this experience. Also, I am here to teach and learn.” The programme focuses on environmental issues as well. The video and photo cameraman, Nico from Barcelona introduced children how to make flower pots out of plastic bottles. Then, they planted wheat seeds in the pots, watered them every day and witnessed how the seeds turned to be little wheat trees. 14-year-old child Berdan explains; “it is amazing to grow up something.” Adela from Guatemala dressed in Mayan costumes and taught children how to make Pinata in a whole week. At the end, they had a party to blow up the Pinata and collect the candies fell out of it. It was a big fun. A tradition from the Central America could
find a place here in the Middle East. Amazing, isn’t it?
It was me who took any advantage to reflect peace thoughts to the souls, eyes and brains of the kids throughout the programme. One day, I wanted them to design their own peace organisation and a logo for it. The results were wonderful. One group of children imaged to form a music band and give concerts in the regions of war or conflicts. Another group wanted to organise big meetings of people from neighbouring countries at the borders. They displayed these ideas on posters at Servas Campus for their friends.
Actors and radio workers coming from Transylvania combined sports, drama and games together and had lovely time with kids in the olive tree gardens and streets. They also did a professional radio interview with all the programme participants to be broadcasted by the radio station in their country
Local translators explores new windows…
LUSUP tries to use the local potential as much as possible. More people participate in the programme every year. Young people, going to university soon, found more opportunities to volunteer as translators, guides and assistants during the programme. Hosting volunteers helped them set up friendships and overcome language barriers. They were not only translating for the children but also for their parents and neighbours. So the transfer of experience among people was succeeded. Young people developed their own self confidence and started to imagine new lives out of borders. One of the translators, Esra, explains with excitement; “it was a far dream to travel even to another city of Turkey before LUSUP but now, I am making plans to visit Marina and Nico in Barcelona. Aliye joins the conversation; “my parents do not think that it is weird to go abroad and volunteer. I think they changed her mind after meeting the Servas volunteers.

Growing up with LUSUP and hosting volunteers for 6 years, Mevsim received a lot of praises during the programme as she showed high language competency and was very helpful. Let’s listen to her, "Servas programme was my first motivation to learn English. Marilyn who was one of the volunteers from Canada helped me learn the first words in 2009. I learnt many things about the world with this language.” Language student, Gizem says; “I have never had such fruitful time in the summer until this year. I wish the volunteers could stay longer.”
From the local to the international….
LUSUP proves again that any person with genuine experience, background, perspective and values can travel to different places on earth and share this potential with the local children and people. It is time to promote this programme in different parts of the world since it carries the potential of activating the local resources, provoking the inner worlds and curiosity of children, introducing the idea of world citizenship, increasing awareness towards environment and providing a fruitful summer holiday for volunteers. Besides, it costs a
little and is applicable since it requires minimum bureaucracy. The promotion of this programme would bring effective outcomes. First of all, the gap between the poor and the old in different parts of the world or/and within the countries would be filled to some extent. Secondly, LUSUP would improve ideas of peace among people of the world and the risk of war would decrease. Thirdly, the ‘unpopular’ countries would find the chance of receiving volunteers and travellers. Finally, some individuals who have high living standards and intellectual background and thinking that ‘something must be done’ to make the world a better place could find a way out through this programme.
Making LUSUP one of the main programmes of Servas international and then promoting this programme in
different parts of the world with the cooperation of related NGOs is the biggest utopia of the coordinator of LUSUP. It is obvious that it would be not difficult to find hardworking dreamers to share this utopia.

Mehmet Ateş
LUSUP Coordinator
Antakya/Turkey, 2014
For the 6-year of programme archive:

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