|Tarlabasi Community Centre (Season 02 - Episode 17)|
This Week's Changemaker; Tarlabasi Community Center Fuels Hope amid Poverty
On 17 February 2011 Sabanci Foundation's "Turkey's Changemakers" program hosts Tarlabasi Community Centre, which reaches out one of the hardest to reach communities in Istanbul through needs-based services.
Although it is only within walking distance to the Istiklal Avenue, a "hip and happening" place known with its loud and proud night life, Tarlabasi district in Istanbul is at the center of deprivation, sorrow and helplessness. A research by the Department of Public Social Services highlights the severity of the issues embedded within the context of Tarlabasi district. The inhabitants of the district include ethnic minorities, victims of internal forced migration and illegal immigrants. Among Tarlabasi community members, 56 percent is unemployed, 90 percent of the women are illiterate and 60 percent of the families live under minimum wage. "Their common ground is the culture they share; a culture of deprivation and poverty, under which they all live" says Suzan Oktan, the Tarlabasi Community Center Coordinator about Tarlabasi community.
Founded by Istanbul Bilgi University in 2007, the Tarlabasi Community Centre tackles some of the issues of the Tarlabasi community. People who confront difficulties in government organizations, in hospitals and at the municipality come to the Tarlabasi Community Centre, which provide them with the necessary assistance. Particularly targeting women and children, the Centre empowers children through dance, music, art and drama workshops while reaching women through literacy courses, seminars on women rights, and awareness-raising on the dangers of substance abuse. The Centre also works with professional volunteers to provide with weekly 2-hour legal assistance sessions in family, criminal and inheritance law open to the local community.
As of today, Tarlabasi Community Centre touched upon the lives of almost a thousand people. "We wanted this shared culture of poverty and deprivation binds them... We never wanted to do something for them, but only with them." says Ms. Oktan.