Big project for big smiles – Day of Caring in Istanbul

This year Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Turkey spent its traditional “May 1st Celebration” in Bolluca Children Village for a “Day of Caring” on May 6, because the Turkish government has declared May 1st as public holiday. Bolluca is in the European part of Turkey – about 50km from the center of Istanbul – and was the first “Children’s Village” in Turkey built in 1992 in cooperation with SOS Kinderdorf International and The Turkish Foundation for Children in Need of Protection.

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The whole story has started in Berlin in May 2009, where I joined the CSR workshop and the “Day of Caring” organization. There, I presented the CSR project of Turkey in 2007 and the communication strategy behind. Luckily, the HQ CSR Team appreciated the efforts in Turkey and decided to support a “Day of Caring” activity and provided funding and experience.

Believing in the Kinderdorf philosophy and enthusiasm drifted Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Turkey to organize its traditional “May 1st celebration” in Bolluca Children Village. Bolluca Children Village is the ideal example of children care & protection for Turkey with its SOS Kinderdorf philosophy of “every child should have a family and grow up with love, respect and security”. Being managed by the Turkish Foundation for Children in Need of Protection, Bolluca Children Village hugs all children in need of protection, care & education who are transferred from SHÇEK (Social Services and Child Protection Authority). The family environment and the protection provided last for a life time. Their emotional ties last even after they leave the village by having a full-time job enabling them to take care of themselves. Youngsters even get married with the support of the village.

In each house there live 6 children with their mother and aunt. The system meets the basic emotional needs of a child by providing them with maternal affection and care. The mothers are responsible of raising them in a healthy way supporting them with love that is needed to build up self-confidence. A family home environment helps to establish a rhythm and routine where as sisters and brothers grow and learn together, share responsibilities, joys and sorrows of daily life.

The plan for the Day of Caring was to finalize the renovation of 2 houses of the village. The organization took almost five months, including the bureaucratic step to transfer the fund and the preparation of a carpenter team that did a lot of renovation work before May 6th and would be on the lead during the event. The Day of Caring then started with a staff meeting. Following the meeting in the company premises, 57 voluntary staff members including one management trainee from the HQ on its first day in Turkey and the Human Resources Director of Mercedes-Benz Türk, Salih Ertör, left the office for Bolluca in the early hours of the day for a whole day work program for making the final touches. In the village, after the welcoming speech of Oya Karakimseli, the Vice-President of The Turkish Foundation for Children in Need of Protection Board of Directors, was followed by the opening speech by myself as organizer of the event. Then, the team was separated into four groups: two for the houses, one for the backyard and the last one for the children’s playground.

Day of Caring - Istanbul

Two groups were assigned to the assembly and installation of board doors, shelves, cupboards, kitchen cabinets, shoe cupboards, bed stands and TV units in the houses. They hanged curtains, placed the beds and the furniture, made the cleaning and necessary organizations in the houses. The third group was responsible for the backyard. First, the ground was cleaned up from wild grass and made ready with fresh soil that was carried and spread all over the area. A pergola was assembled for summer time and finally, the garden was ornamented with the plantation of beautiful flowers and plants. Meanwhile, the fourth group painted a picture on the wall in the children’s playground and turned it into a wonderful colorful work of art.

Day of Caring - Istanbul

The strong teamwork paid off and the work was finished at 5 p.m., just before the children returned from school. And everyone came together in the after work party which was organized for the 88 children of Bolluca Village. First, the Bolluca Children Village Folk Dance Group and then the choir took stage and played their show to the team that watched them with pride and full of emotions. After the show, Franz Koller, Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Turkey, took the floor and underlined the meaning and importance of CSR activities: “Being a team is the most important exam of being a well educated, effective and active individual. Each of us worked with discipline, respect and passion as a team. And we felt the pleasure of accomplishment. We showed our little friends, our precious children the importance of being a team that makes a change. We filled their little hearts with love, friendship and gave hope that should always exist in our lives.” Then, Pinar Aran, the President of The Turkish Foundation for Children in Need of Protection, made a grateful speech, before the big after work party started with games, activities and surprises designed for the children. The barbeque was a perfect match after long working hours.

Day of Caring - Istanbul

The party continued for three hours. The children were all around the party ground playing football and Live Pin Ball in teams. They rode rodeo, separated into teams and competed in the Big Foot and Water Pant games. They enjoyed cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream and sweets. They were very happy with the balloons they got from the clowns and liked face painting which turned them into little characters like cats, rabbits etc. In short, they heavily partied. Mercedes-Benz Financial Services staff members had fun together with their little friends and had the chance to share their enthusiasm and joy.

Day of Caring - Istanbul

It was the first “Day of Caring” of the staff members and all of them were proud and happy about what they accomplished for the children. Revisiting the village and the children was the common wish of all. When the Day of Caring ended, all staff members hit the road all together in a bus silently with smiling faces and thinking about their childhood memories when a cotton candy was the most desired pleasure of life.