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Turkish students renovate schools, dig wells in Africa, spread compassion

They are a diverse group of students culled from universities across Türkiye. And they are on a mission, far from their homes.

The project “We Have Fallen in Dark Love, We Are Going on a Campaign” is not just a title; it’s a testament to the transformative journey of these university students, organised by the International Youth Association (Uluslararası Genc Dernegi), acting as goodwill ambassadors as they engage in and learn the practical aspects of social entrepreneurship.

The core aim of the project is to facilitate Türkiye’s engagement with Africa. As part of this cultural exchange, the selected university students reached out to diverse regions across the African continent. Their mission? To actively participate in various development activities, contributing to the betterment of the local communities.

But the project goes beyond the tangible acts of philanthropy. It’s about nurturing a sense of global citizenship while fostering international experience among the participants.

As the students venture into African territories, they become agents of change, carrying the aspirations and goodwill of not just their home country but the global community. They embody the essence of global civic work, demonstrating the profound impact that individuals can have when united by a common purpose.

Take Huseyin Aslan for example. A Mathematics student at Istanbul Medeniyet University, he was among the group of four volunteers sent to Tanzania. Their journey began with the mission to renovate the Nur Madrasa (traditional religious school), a sanctuary of knowledge and spirituality for 190 students in Dar es Salaam. For five days, these young volunteers devoted themselves to the task of revitalising this place of learning, painting both its interiors and exteriors. As the final brushstrokes were applied, a shared moment of prayer united them with the students, transcending the boundaries of language and culture.

The impact of this experience, as Huseyin explained to TRT World, was something that could hardly be conveyed through words. To truly comprehend the emotions that prevailed in these far-off lands, one had to be there in person, he insists.

In Tanzania, where Islam had reached by the ninth century, the volunteers witnessed the joy that clean water could bring to remote villages. Wells with clean water, generously supported by Türkiye, were opened in the gardens of schools in Kibesa village in Masaki, delivering both practical assistance and a powerful message about the value of education. They underscored the universal importance of accessible, clean water and the transformative impact of education.

Huseyin couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for the abundance and prosperity in his own life. Tanzania, where Christians and Muslims coexist harmoniously, stood as a shining example of tolerance for the 21st century. It was a place where individuals weren’t judged or marginalised based on their faith. Huseyin felt it was essential to promote this story, encouraging understanding and unity regardless of one’s religious affiliation.

The “We Have Fallen…” project is a powerful reminder that when young minds and compassionate hearts come together, they can create ripples of positive change that extend far beyond geographical boundaries. These students, armed with their education and unwavering commitment, are helping to shape a brighter and more interconnected world. Through their dedication, they are not only expanding Türkiye’s presence in Africa but also enriching the lives of those they touch on their journey.

For Halil Ibrahim Aksen, a senior student of Political Science and International Relations at Ibn Haldun University in Istanbul, the encounter with enlightening experiences happened in Uganda. As he immersed into the unfamiliar cultural realm, he discovered the significance of small gestures. He saw first hand how even as simple a thing as a toy could ignite joy in the eyes of local children.

Meanwhile, Hamza Erfidan, a second-year Communications student at Galatasaray University, found himself in Senegal, a place where the exploration of a different culture was just the tip of the iceberg. What struck him most was the warm hospitality and genuine kindness of the Senegalese people. The geographical locations of Dakar and Thies became more than just places on a map; they became a part of his own story. The locals’ readiness to offer assistance and their tolerance left indelible marks on his memory.

“In the face of challenges that arose from cultural differences, weather conditions and other factors, the Senegalese people demonstrated incredible warmth and generosity, turning obstacles into opportunities for personal growth.” says Erfidan to TRT World. Every encounter reminded Hamza of the beauty that emerges from embracing differences, and the capacity of people to work together to surmount difficulties. This experience wasn’t merely about discovering the charm of Senegal; it was about understanding how people could support each other and create something beautiful from their diversity. It was a life lesson that Hamza knew would stay with him forever.

Graphic designer Rabia Kubra Sevinc went to Ghana. “We set out from Türkiye with seven young girls, with the aim of renovating two classrooms in the kindergarten section of Darul Hijra Islamic School in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and providing materials to assist students in education. We were completing the renovation works at the school and playing games with the students. They were constantly watching us while we were working. “It was great to witness the excitement of the children who watched the renovation of their schools with curiosity and to share in this joy.” says Sevinc to TRT World.

“Ghana is a very different country from the culture I am used to. This made me look at everything and everyone with amazement. I was meeting a new culture, but the people were so friendly and happy that I did not feel like a stranger at all. The beauty of its people and the beauty of Ghana’s geography contributed to this. Ghana fascinates us with its nature and greenery.” she adds.

Their stories underscore the transformative power of cultural exchange and the enduring impact of reaching out to those in need. It’s not solely about the material support they extended, but the bridges of understanding and unity they erected. Each of these volunteers, in their own ways, helped weave a brighter and more interconnected world.

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