National Children’s Day and a visit to the local Orphanage

The Orphanage

Yesterday, Sevil and I visited the local orphanage in the centre of Mersin. There, about 100 or so 5 to 12 year old children were in a hall. They were preparing to celebrate both National Children’s and Sovereignty Day and birthdays for all the children born in April. Sevil went to the orphanage as part of a Rotary Club charity event to give sweets to the orphans.

The children were very rowdy, active and generally happy. They were dressed in either school uniforms or what looked like donated clothing. Some of the clothing was slightly ill-fitting and a few of the boys’ tops were designed for females. Nothing too noticeable, though.

I spoke to several of them and they were intrigued to speak to a foreigner. The most common questions requested my age, name and ‘Hangi takim?’ or ‘Which team?’. This last question, of course, was referring to which football (soccer) team I supported in Turkey. I say ‘Fenerbahce’ mainly because this is the team followed by my previous Turkish flatmates, Ali and Umut. I don’t passionately support Fenerbahce and I actually hope the lesser clubs in Turkey win instead of the big 3 Istanbul sides, Fenerbahce, Galatasary and Besiktas. When talking about ages, one of the children said his Mother was 30 years old. I don’t know how he knew this he was an orphan. Perhaps his Mother could not support him and gave him up. Some older school students were also visiting the orphanage at the same time. Two of them actually recognised me from when I visited their schools in early 2002.

A male orphan was the MC and introduced the day’s program. Several adults gave speeches largely ignored by the children. 4 of the female orphans then danced to a Tarkan (Turkey’s biggest popstar) song. Following this, 5 or 6 male and female orphans in traditional costume then performed Turkish folk dances accompanied by a drummer and flute player. More performances were to follow but Sevil and I had to return to work.

I have some photos of the dancing and hope to post them in the next few days.

National Sovereignty and Children’s Day

Today, the 23rd of April is ‘National Sovereignty and Children’s Day’. According to NTV “…established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to honour both the children of Turkey and the founding of the national parliament of the new Turkish nation.”

Many businesses and apartments displayed Turkish flags (like they do for all holidays) and schools, government offices, banks and some businesses were closed. My work remained open as it has in previous years. This morning a student parade lead by a marching band walked past work. Amongst the school students were scouts. It reminded me of my days long ago when I took part in ANZAC Day and other marches as a cub, scout or venturer. ANZAC Day is in fact on in 2 days time and soon I will write about it from the Turkish perspective in my other blog.