While many assume moving to a country with gorgeous summer-time weather is about putting your feet up while sipping cold margaritas around the pool, some expats on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts of Turkey have decided to make a difference instead.
Expats making a difference
Possibly with an urge to give back to their adopted countries, many have joined existing charities or in resorts where none exist, set up their own. Whether it is helping animals or humans by collecting money, items or organising events, their efforts have a positive and helpful ripple throughout their neighbourhoods.
The simple and quiet resort town of Didim on the Aegean coast is a perfect example. The latest charity event was box collections for Syrian refugees. Working with an established group in Kusadasi, Facebook was the ideal platform for them to spread the word. The boxes contained donated items that every family needs such as dried milk, nappies or packet food. Such was the resounding success of the charity event, donations were transported in a huge van and local business eagerly joined in to help their customers donate to the cause.
This was a one-off event but all year round, other charities are at work in the town. Every morning at 8am sharp, volunteers meet at the local dog shelter to walk its residents, of which many are also in need of tender loving care and attention. Expats also clean out kennels and feed the dogs. The regional council gives funding but donations of time and food are always gratefully received.
Helping Hands, a collective group are another organisation proving to be unstoppable when it comes to doing good deeds for others. 2015 played host to their 5th annual swim around the coastline as well as the yearly ball, an evening event attended by hundreds. Monthly they host auction nights at various bars and restaurants around resort and all donations go to various local causes, such as two disabled children, who received wheelchairs in June 2015.
Other Expat Charities in Turkey
One charity that has changed the homeless dogs and cats situation in Fethiye is Animal Aid. It all began in 2008, when Andy and Pauline Trent relocated to the Fethiye region and as animal lovers; they saw many opportunities to help our four-legged friends.
Joining up with another expat called Terrie Harrison; they formed an official charity, a task that in those days was neither straight forward nor simple. Since then, they have gone from strength to strength by organising a neutering program, foster careers, and vet care. When extra funds are available, they also help towards the feeding costs of the local dog shelter run by the council.
Sometimes though, the work of just one volunteer can also make a vast difference. Dianne Jones, who came to live in Turkey 16 years ago, runs the Lily – Love in the Language of Yarn program. She says…
“I spend most of my time knitting, either designing my own patterns or knitting for charity. I recently founded 'LILY' Love In the Language of Yarn in memory of my granddaughter Lily Iris Gibson who was born sleeping 18th July 2010. We provide knitted garments and blankets for children in need”
Little did she know that her efforts were going to be greatly needed, when the stem of Syrian refugees fleeing through Turkey reached an all-time high, knitting blankets, jumpers, scarves, hats and other items. She also contributes locally towards families by giving fruit, vegetables and clean water. This winter, efforts of herself and others now ensure that many Syrian refugees will be able to stay warm this winter and they have also provided many with needles and wools to knit for their own families.
Volunteering for Turkish Charities
In many places such as Istanbul, established and successful charities already exist and they accept foreign volunteers. The expat gains by giving their time back to the community but it is also a chance for them to work besides Turks and learn about the social issues that face their adopted country.
One extremely successful charity is “Make a Wish” that aims to simply put a smile on the faces of sick children by making a wish come true for them. Some children want to tour Istanbul, others want a camera or to dress up as a princess for the day. After screening the volunteers for reliability, training is given before they are assigned to fulfilling a project wish.
Each expat has different and sometimes personal reasons for volunteering and setting up charities. Whether they want to task their brain to something new, prevent boredom, make friends, meet people or align with a cause that is dear to their heart, charity work is a win-win situation on every occasion. If you are interested in working with a charity in your neighbourhood, search local Facebook groups or approach the regional paper. You never know, you could find your calling in life.
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