To bring disabled children together in theater arts has been a top priority of actor Turgay Tanülkü at the Yön Sanat Performing Arts Theater, which has been opening its heart and its stage to children with disabilities since 2010.
"We have learned that peace only comes from standing side-by-side with people from all walks of life. I believe that [Turkey] will be a world leader because [the people of my country] have love. If we preserve the infinite love of Mawlana, we will become leaders in world peace," Tanülkü told an Anadolu Agency (AA) reporter.
Saying that he does not believe in a world where discrimination and separation exist, the actor said that God (Allah) does not know or implement discrimination and added that he believes in the power of kindness and love. Tanülkü stressed that God sees everyone as His subjects and noted that "[God] says, 'Make your own exclusions but you are my subjects.' Meaning that if we move away from exclusions, our burdens are lifted and we come face-to-face with love."
The successful actor pointed to the importance of loving Turkey as a country and observed, "We will love Turkey because there is no other point of interest. Since its establishment, no one has loved my country; not even our neighbors. We are beautiful people. We go to war and we make peace with the melody of trumpets. We have peace in our hearts and on the tips of our tongues; as long as we open our hearts. You [saw the public response] in [city] squares. We have learned to walk side by side regardless of where we are from. If it continues, then we will have peace. These children are like my own and someday they will be leaders, presidents, prime ministers and presidents of republics."
'Anything done for money is a disgrace to our society'
Referring to families that keep their disabled children at home and isolate them, Turgay Tanülkü said that such people are detaching their children from the world and that they should feel ashamed. He stated that the disabled members of society are citizens of this country and must have equal opportunities to benefit from the same things as everyone else. "Therefore, children need to go out and open up to the outside world," Tanülkü said, "This is what happens with social projects [such as these]. We are volunteers. Anything done for money is a disgrace to our society. My main philosophy is that while we grew up, the taxes paid by the people we did not know became our salaries and pocket money; therefore, we are responsible towards those people we do not know. We have started off in this context and we are growing as a family."
Noting that they will start with a team of 70 children who will be selected from a designated list of disabled children, Tanülkü said children which would take the stage in choral and orchestral performances and theatrical places, which give them the chance to say, "I am here," and introduce themselves to the country.
Stressing that the most important thing we can offer children with special needs is love, Tanülkü said, "Our country will protect the children we have raised with love. Even though their families cast them aside, these neglected children still buy gifts on Mother's Day and Father's Day because they are wise and mature. Then, their parents feel ashamed of themselves and regret hiding their children from society."
'We enable them to forget their disabilities'
Tanülkü indicated the importance of developing activities for children with special needs and said these children first made peace with themselves as a result of these theatrical activities. "We enabled them to forget their disabilities. Sometimes they even make fun of their own special needs. For example, I tell my physically disabled child in a wheelchair, 'Son, just once welcome me on your feet', then he tells me, 'I will soon, dad.' It is important to instill this mentality in our children," Tanülkü said.
According to the actor, the number of children with physical disabilities is higher than the number of those with behavioral or psychological impairments. "I feel pity for those people. I never feel pity for my children, only love," Tanülkü said.
'Birds play reaches 75 prisoners'
"I have 23 kids that came from nothing. They studied. Eleven of them graduated from college. There are those who have become prosecutors and lawyers. All of them have a moral obligation towards this country," Tanülkü said. He stressed they were working on a foundation that would be an umbrella for the children with disabilities and homeless children left orphaned or abandoned.
Actor Tanülkü said they have reached 75 prisoners held in the prisons in Turkey over the past year and staged the play, "Last Birds." "We took a month off, but we will start where we left off in September. We will visit all the prisons starting from Edirne and Kırklareli," Tanülkü said. "While I travel, I find these children. I feel the absence of their parents when I see them. When I realize the parents cannot hold on to their children, I contact those families and offer foster care to provide them with an education. I will not disclose any numbers."
Stating that he was not a foster parent himself, Tanülkü said they provide housing for the children and meet all of their needs, providing food, clothing and education along with the help of the actor's wife. "We are not thankful for anyone but the Creator, so that myself, my kids and everyone else involved in the project can feel at ease," he said.