“200 Stars are born” – within the framework of ‘Don’t hinder my dreams’
By Heidi Trautmann
I went to the Sarayonu square in front of the Saray Hotel to witness “The Birth of 200 stars”, represented by 200 youngsters, to ‘lighten the way in the darkness’. I had come to see their faces, see one part taking care of the other, persons in wheelchairs or in need of help. School children in their uniforms, surrounded by many onlookers; I recognised one class from the Anadolou College with director Aşik Mene and my friend Ipek Kıranbay with her chorus. I stood there listening to them as they sang along to celebrate the cause. They are really good and gave the event an important impact. Micky Mouse and partners came to shake hands to all and balloons were distributed. The organizers Figen and Neslihan brought huge boxes full of sweatshirts with a star printed on which were pulled over the ears of laughing children by presidential helpers. These sweatshirts were sponsored by Ms Meral Eroğlu, our President’s wife, under whose auspices the project was carried out and who gave her support to all matters that went along with the event wholeheartedly.
They first walked to the Lokmaci Crossing, hand in hand, accompanied by Ms Meral Eroğlu, in the centre of them all; they continued their walk from there to the Presidential Palace to be invited by our First Lady onto the premises of the Presidential Palace and have lunch together. There they were entertained by young groups and did plays together on a perfect day.
Figen Inan told me of this very special day with her own words:
“It was a very exciting day for all of us ..the youths were very good with the children. I think we have reached our goal of having them interact with each other. The walk was accompanied by crowds of people who thought it was another strike again. We laughed with these kids and had a lot of fun. It became very sentimental for Meral Eroğlu, the President’s wife, when one of the children made a wish to be hung on our wishing tree ..Meral Eroğlu had tears in her eyes. I believe it was a great success; society has always neglected the existence of the problematic situation of these kids and their families, but faced now with our live documentary they will have to acknowledge the fact that they are part of our social life. Perhaps it will make our society think twice again: who is actually disabled, us or them…. and who has the barriers set up… them or us?”
I would like to know the thoughts of these children, of all 200, when they went home after this event. I trust that I will learn about it, one of these days, as I am sure that Neslihan and Figen will follow it up, as they said they would. They will continue with what they have started and perhaps, one day, the project will develop its own dynamic and take with it an avalanche of new spirits and helping hands. But, one day, it had all started and I was a witness of it:
First an idea was born, then the idea became a project. I had already seen the basic idea at one exhibition at EMAA’s Art Centre about a year ago. Figen Inan says: “The idea was to get to know the world of disabled children, to work with them, and finally to make this world visible to society, to the so-called normal people. What is normal and what is disabled? Society declares the rules by which a person is normal. A person is disabled when he/she cannot perform normal social duties or cannot lead a normal life, sustain her/himself and needs the help of others; due to mostly unknown circumstances the cell structure is not complete or deformed and I most admire parents who go through with a birth and give their child love and support for their whole life. But, these parents do need help and understanding by society and by associations, and in this case by the passion and engagement of Figen Inan and Neslihan Basaran Aktay, who will then try to get other people involved to carry this idea on.
Seeing the work they have done so far, they have obviously made a deep effort to open this hidden world to our society; the people of this group, what are their dreams, what are their emotions, do they realize what is happening around them; do they feel the sympathy shown by others, how dothey react. This is the one side; the other is that society rather looks away from problem zones in their close surroundings. I have often found that people of society rather donate sums of money to starving African children to silence their conscience rather than look at the world at their elbows.
At this point, the second phase of the project had set in, which was started under the name of “Don’t hinder my Dreams”: to make these two worlds meet, take 100 “normal” children and make them acquainted with 100 “disabled” children; to ask the one to help the other, to be there for each other for a couple of hours, play together, or somehow interact, react.
A wonderful idea! A light at the end of the tunnel, a star in our hands.