Life is a series of unforeseen circumstances. The families and teachers in our Mersin program could tell you about a war that swept through their country and their lives, causing everything to devolve beyond their wildest dreams. And yet, they found a way to continue their lives, packing up their surviving family members and heading for a new life in a foreign country, doing everything they could so that, at least for a little while, their children could call Turkey “home.” But life is a series of unforeseen circumstances. On the night of July 15th, a coup attempt rocked Turkey at its core, resulting in roundups of military, government personnel and teachers, and ultimately forcing our team to make the heartbreaking decision to evacuate two weeks before the scheduled conclusion of our program.
(A gathering in the streets of Mersin on the night of the coup)
Nonetheless, our program participants were committed to continuing their learning, and we were committed to continuing to teach them. Our team gathered with all of our Mersin participants over Skype and did what our Mersin team does best…we found a solution.
Now, on Mondays at 11a.m. our parents and teachers log in to a private Youtube channel where they watch recorded versions of the presentations we had planned on giving between the evacuation and August 18th. At 2p.m. Turkey time, they gather with our team, now spread out around the world, via Whatsapp for a live Q&A session about the presentation.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, our cooperative group leaders show off their leadership skills, gathering their groups at the center where we work for group-led practice sessions. They take turns working with the children in their groups while other group members take videos of their work that they send to our team for feedback and suggestions…We are amazed by their initiative, and when we watch their videos, they are mastering everything! They don’t even need us!
(Teachers Rana S. and Soumia work with Haya on writing and receptive language skills)
These days in their support groups, the families are working on coming up with new activities that they can do together with all of their children. The parent group is creating an encouragement book that they will write in and pass from family to family every week while the siblings are writing a story about their autism sibling superpowers. They have lively Whatsapp discussions based on prompts we send out on Monday evenings. Yesterday’s prompt was: “Where do you find community? Which communities do you belong to? Are they accepting of your child with autism? What do you enjoy about each of these communities? What do you wish was different? All of the mothers listed A Global Voice for Autism as one of their communities!
And if that’s not enough, the families are organizing their own picnics, playdates and social events for the group. They really don’t need us anymore…and for us…that’s our dream come true!
(Haya and Reema at the support group-organized picnic)
Hate, violence and fear have all found themselves on the Mersin agenda over the course of this summer, and still, the families and teachers we serve are choosing love, peace and hope every time.