Traveling for about 10,000 kilometers in a 16-hour trip, a group of volunteers from Turkey had one purpose: to help the people of Mekarmanik and put a smile on children's faces.
Endorsed by the Youth and Sports Ministry, which declared 2019 the "Year of Volunteerism" to encourage more people to take up volunteer work, the International Damla Volunteers Association visited the village in Indonesia's Banten province. They planted trees, provided free health check-ups and delivered gifts to children. They also gave Turkish lessons to villagers and taught them about Turkish culture.
The charity work was in cooperation with Association of Indonesian Students in Bursa, a northwestern Turkish city. Erol Öztamur, one of the volunteers, said they have been involved in volunteer work all across Turkey and they were invited by Indonesian students in Turkey to visit the village. Mekarmanik is a poor village in the island of Java, with a population depending on labor in rubber farms. Öztamur told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they visited the village to carry the spirit of volunteerism prevailing in Turkey to the world. "We received a warm welcome here and was impressed with sincerity of people. We spent five days here and did everything from health check-ups to playing games with children. The most important work for us was to plant saplings. They will grow in five years and sales of fruits from these trees will be used to cover schooling costs for children here," he said. "It was a great experience for us," he added.
Canan Çakır took her 9-year-old daughter with her for volunteer work in the village. "She met new friends here and together, we played games and planted durian trees," Çakır, who teaches Turkish to foreign high school students in Turkey, said. "I love my job but I was also wondering what the life was like for my students back in their countries," Çakır, who counts Indonesian students among her students, said. She also taught a short course on Turkish to people in the village. "This is a good step to introduce my language and teach something to the children here," she added.
Haci Aliyuddin, chief of the village where 2,500 inhabitants live, said it was the first time they hosted foreign guests in Mekarmanik and they were grateful for the work done by the volunteers.