Volunteering allows people to connect to their community and make it a better place while working for a good cause. Dedicating time as a volunteer gives people the opportunity to change the world and influence the lives of people in a positive way.
In this respect, addressing the issue as a cultural, political, religious and social gate, the Ministry of Youth and Sports contributes to the development of the projects and opens its doors to those who want to participate in volunteering opportunities. In this regard, the ministry offers many options to youth volunteers according to their wishes and schedules.
Speaking to Daily Sabah, Youth and Sports Minister Muharrem Kasapoğlu expressed that they put a great emphasis on volunteering. He stated that 2019 was declared as the year of volunteering and talked about volunteering.
Reiterating the declaration of 2019 as the "Year of Volunteering," Kasapoğlu said, "We're excited that young people desire to render the world a better and peaceful place. For this reason, we're evaluating projects for the youth."
He added that volunteer activities will continue to multiply.
Talking about projects by the ministry, Kasapoğlu gave the example of the Youth Volunteers website (www.gencgonulluler.gov.tr), which is an open platform for public institutions, universities, local administrations, federations and non-profit organizations.
About the website, Kasapoğlu said, "We brought the youth who want to volunteer in different fields together with the institutions that seek volunteers on this website."
Minister Kasapoğlu further expressed that volunteers are active in six volunteering categories which are disaster and emergency, education, sports, healthcare and social services, environment, and culture and tourism. In this respect, touching upon the activities of volunteers, Kasapoğlu said the following, "They donate blood and provide food assistance. They teach Turkish to Syrian children so these children could come together with their Turkish peers. They plant trees, work as voluntary librarians, or weave the hair of girls."
Stating the youth who come together for volunteering are guided by the ministry, he said "this is a mission we can all be proud of."
In addition to all this, the youth are volunteering at over 280 youth centers and 120 libraries all around Turkey.
Talking about another project known as the "Water Drop Volunteers," Kasapoğlu said, "Hundreds of anonymous youth goes all around Turkey to leave a good mark there" and added "for instance, they go to a village and realize the maintenance of a school there voluntarily."
Stating other charitable work like helping the elderly at house work or creating a library for a school are among such voluntary activities, Kasapoğlu said "Our volunteers are just like silent heroes; they are realizing extraordinary feats with modesty and building bridges between people."
Kasapoğlu asserted that another project, "Social Harmony," is being emphasized by the ministry. He explained that artistic, educational and cultural activities are organized in regions with significant Syrian refugee population with the participation of both Turkish and Syrian youth to achieve socialization. With the project "Youth Transformation," he stated that they are working on improving social responsibility and volunteering awareness among the youth.
Sports in Turkey
An important component of self-improvement and culture, sports is mostly associated with football in Turkey. While a variety of sporting activities come to mind in developed countries, in Turkey it is limited to football, basketball and volleyball.
Sports becomes visible to the society only when there is success or medals are earned at international sports events; meanwhile, the Ministry of Youth and Sports prioritizes the improvement and dissemination of sports along with increasing the youth's participation in sportive activities.
In this respect, Kasapoğlu expressed that Turkey's current sports system is limited and outdated. Taking the country's population and the proportion of children and youth within the total population into consideration, Kasapoğlu stated that Turkey is one of the leading countries in terms of governmental support to federations, clubs and the construction of sports facilities in the last 16 years along with the existing potential for sports.
Even though 80 percent of Turkey's sports facilities may be used free of charge, Kasapoğlu asserted that the habit of conscious physical exercise is below the average of leading countries in sport and that the numbers of licensed athletes, trainers and active sports clubs in all branches of sports is low when the country's population is considered.
Recalling that only football clubs come to mind when sports clubs are mentioned in Turkey, Kasapoğlu underscored that the number of public sports clubs, which by name suggest the members and the general public realize exercises, are in decline in the country.
Kasapoğlu stated that the federations have abandoned their original duty and that they continue to focus on high performance sports. He expressed that in countries developed in sports high performance athletes and their training is handled by sports federations while the management is under the jurisdiction of different mechanisms.
Affirming the country has outdated definitions for sports federations, sports clubs and even athletes, Kasapoğlu stated that these terms had to be redefined for new strategies.
He said, "Despite the sports facilities initiative and the financial support granted for sports federations along with sports clubs in the last 16 years, the existing sports system in Turkey failed to contribute to the public. In short, the existing sports system in Turkey is limited and outdated."
However, despite the current state of affairs, Kasapoğlu hinted that Turkey's sports system will change with "Sports Turkey," the most prominent sports project since the conception of the republic that is to be undertaken by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Stating changes to the system will not be limited to this project and bold steps will be taken, Kasapoğlu underscored that the main goal of the ministry is to be on par with countries developed in sports. He asserted that it is not possible to observe changes immediately, "It will not happen over a day. The process will begin soon; the youth will enjoy and grow in a modern sports system from 2023 onward."
A generation of athletes
Emphasizing children's participation in sports and growth, Kasapoğlu underlined that sporting ability evaluation and guidance will be realized as a part of the "Sports Turkey" project.
He stated that 423,557 students were evaluated and 10 percent of these students are now being trained in basic movement and sporting abilities. In this respect, Kasapoğlu expressed his belief that these numbers will skyrocket with the project.
Continuing on the aims of the "Sports Turkey" project, Kasapoğlu said the following, "With this project, we aim to train a generation of athletes for our centennial anniversary of the republic by evaluating the physical parameters and motor abilities of children between the ages of five and 12 and guiding them to branches of sports they are most suitable for; coordinating all partners of sports for athlete training; creating a sustainable and productive system along with a high performance athlete pool; and communicating with parents to increase both child and adult participation in sports."
Credit and Dormitories Institution's role in the development of sports
Meanwhile, emphasizing on the youth's active participation to the economic and social life, the ministry sees the presence of a dynamic young population in the country as a great opportunity for Turkey. Therefore, the ministry is conducting research and studies which will support the youth's personal and social development, unleash their true potential and achieve their active participation to all aspects of life.
Making statements about the youth, which is the other focus of the ministry, Kasapoğlu asserted that they are mobilizing all facilities and resources of the country to prepare the youth for the future.
Kasapoğlu explained that the Credit and Dormitories Institution (KYK) demonstrates the clear distinction between the old and new Turkey while adding that students stayed at these public dormitories out of necessity, rather than preference, in the past. According to him, now students desire to stay at the publicly-funded dormitories and have a peaceful student life there.
Pointing to the improved quality of the dormitories, Kasapoğlu affirmed that students want to stay at the KYK dormitories for all their university life. He shared that there were vacancies around 30-40 percent at the dormitories in the past while adding that there are almost no vacancies today.
Kasapoğlu stated that the capacities of the dormitories were increased tremendously especially between 2002 and 2017. According to him, this is an indicator that the government and President Erdoğan values the youth. Kasapoğlu expressed that they want to increase the total capacity of dorms to 681,143 by the end of the year.
"We're working on our new dormitories non-stop. We aim to accommodate all students as soon as possible. We have opened dormitories with a total capacity of 53,574 in 2018 through investments. The total capacity of our dormitories is expected to be 881,409 by the end of 2021," he said.
Approximately 235 percent increase was achieved in dormitory capacity between the years of 2002 and 2017. While there were 190 dormitories in 75 cities and 57 districts with 182,258 student capacity, today there are 781 dormitories in 81 cities and 239 districts with a 667,593 capacity.
Talking about the facilities provided to the youth at dormitories, Kasapoğlu affirmed their emphasis on students' health and stated that dozens of foods are offered to students at banquet service during breakfast and dinner. In addition, he stated that a monthly stipend of TL 375 ($70) is provided to students for breakfast and dinner.
Commenting on projects for disabled students, Kasapoğlu stated that the new dormitories are built and the old ones are improved in a way to accommodate disabled students.
Kasapoğlu expressed that various training, courses and social facilities are provided to students at the dormitories. He asserted that students could come together and demand training on any subject by filling out surveys prepared by the dormitory administration.
Giving examples of the social facilities provided by dormitories, Kasapoğlu talked about workshops, foreign language training, Turkish-Islamic arts and crafts, vocational training and visual arts courses. Kasapoğlu added that tournaments are organized at dormitories and that students are able travel within Turkey and abroad as a part of these tournaments.
War on addiction
Saying that "armed terrorism and narcotic terrorism are one and the same," Minister Kasapoğlu asserted that they're fighting against all kinds of addiction and terrorism. Underscoring the need to collectively fight against narcotics, Kasapoğlu asserted that narcotics negatively affect the whole society rather than individuals. He expressed that they will not allow drugs to destroy the youth's will, freedom and character.
Kasapoğlu stated that they have many partner institutions in their fight against drugs and said, "As the Ministry of Youth and Sports, we'll lend a helping hand to the addicted youth; however, our main goal is to prevent the abuse of drugs and to protect our youth."
Kasapoğlu expressed that they are fighting against all kinds of addictions and terrorism, while asserting that armed terrorism and narcotic terrorism are one and the same. He added that they also aim to reach the youth, win them over and introduce them to sports.
Emphasizing the importance of fighting drugs altogether; Kasapoğlu stated that drugs negatively affect the whole society rather than individuals.
"We won't forsake our youth's will, freedom and character to this poison," he commented.
Indicating their partnership with numerous institutions, Minister Kasapoğlu underscored that they will assist addicted individuals while asserting their priority being the prevention of drug abuse and the protection of the youth.
Underlining the positive effect of sports in this matter, he said "the power of sports will be victorious over terrorism and drug abuse. It's the antidote of both terrorism and drug abuse."
Kasapoğlu stated that seminars on fighting against addiction are provided together with partner institutions.
"We provided education to 6,171 people consisting of trainers, youth leaders and camp leaders together with the Green Crescent," he said.
He added that a total of 2,777,540 people were provided with addiction awareness courses with 2,287,000 of them being at youth centers, 96,000 at camps and 76,260 at dormitories.
The minister stated that "Prevention of Drug Abuse, Protection and Rehabilitation Workshop" was held twice in 2016 and 2017, while another workshop on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) fighting against youth drug abuse was held last year.
In addition, Kasapoğlu affirmed that 1,440 youth were informed about substance addiction at eight thematic camps which are a part of the protocol signed with Green Crescent. He also added that the ministry organized a "Hope Camp" with 400 girls and 400 boys, all of whom were victims of terror, as a part of the youth summer camps.
NGOs and projects
Expressing that the youth cannot be guided only by the state, Minister Kasapoğlu acknowledged the presence of various actors such as the youth, their families, educational institutions and NGOs.
As a part of the 10th Development Plan, Kasapoğlu stated that they are working toward improving the sustainability and capacity of NGOs for a strong, diverse, pluralist and sustainable civil society, while adding that it's the contribution to the increased cooperation between the public and NGOs.
He said, "The Youth Projects Assistance Program, which provides grants, is one our most important instruments in terms of youth and sports. With this grant program, we support many endeavors of the youth such as culture, art, education, fighting addiction, historical consciousness, sports and volunteering. There are many other examples I can provide in this matter."
Expressing that the motto of the Special Call Program 2018, specifically designed for NGOs, was "think, design and apply," Kasapoğlu affirmed that they expected the youth to be a part of all processes from the creation of the project idea to the application of it. He stated that 444 projects proposed by NGOs were provided with grants.
Within the scope of the program, "Some 178 coffee and book shops, 68 culture and arts centers, 48 mobile youth centers, 48 social harmony centers, 35 healthy life and sports centers, 33 fighting addiction centers, 28 innovative idea centers and six various projects were supported. Moreover, disadvantaged youths and regions are prioritized.
Regarding disabled youth, Kasapoğlu said the following: "Projects aiming to increase the participation of disabled youth to the social life are important for us. For an 'Enabled Turkey,' we prioritize projects aiming rehabilitate the disabled through sports, arts or cultural activities along with projects that allow them to be a part of the everyday life. While projects on fighting addictions were supported under the title 'social harmony,' we've made it a separate category in 2014 due to its importance. We don't limit addiction to substance abuse; we're also fighting against various other addictions that keep our youth away from a health and balanced life, especially the addiction to technology."
Minister Kasapoğlu expressed that the extent of the program was also determined by taking Turkey's 2023 vision into consideration.
Talking about the ongoing reconstruction efforts in eastern and southeastern Anatolia which were caused by terrorist activities in 2015 and 2016, Kasapoğlu asserted that the Ministry of Youth and Sports continues to provide assistance to the youth in the region and that there are various ongoing projects like "Coffee and Books."
Innovative ideas, culture and arts, a healthy life and sports, fighting addictions and social harmony are among the projects that are prioritized by the ministry.