Hello we are Manal, Yasmine, Hamza, Aya, Wiam and Yumna; Abdullah Gül University students from Morocco and Pakistan ! We would like to present to you a volunteering project called “SivilLAB” which we have been involved in at the University:
Below we have answered some of the questions we thought you might have about this unique volunteering program.
What is SivilLAB?
SivilLAB is a project jointly organised by the German Robert Bosch Foundation and the Turkish Goethe Institute. The program has been rolled out in Eskişehir, Kayseri and Istanbul. Its first goal is to develop projects within the local society and also to support social activities in the host cities.
Karola Reiter is the Project Development Coordinator of SivilLAB in Kayseri/AGU; she creates volunteering opportunities for us and innovative approaches so that we can strengthen our youth involvement.
What is our involvement in this project?
First, we have had the opportunity to take part in Project Development and Communication trainings organised by SivilLAB and the AGU Youth Factory, the office which is hosting SivilLAB at the University.
Since we joined the program we have also participated in two big projects:
- Working with the “Open Arms Kayseri — OAK” association: we joined Syrian people at the OAK centre to cook Syrian, Turkish and Pakistani food (such as Köfte, Taboulé and Lassi) and worked with the refugee women and girls there to decorate the Centre.
- Organising tours of our University campus for Syrian youth.
What does it bring to our local community members?
We think the SivilLAB projects are great because they take the mind off the struggles that refugees are facing everyday; but they are also the perfect opportunity to make new friends!
For some of the children and teenagers we met it was the first intercultural event they participated in (meeting Moroccans and Pakistanis and tasting their traditional food).
It also helped them feel more comfortable in their new environment, with fellow Arabic speakers, but at the same time it motivated them to learn new things; and some of them are looking forward to studying Engineering and learning English!
The campus tours we organised also contributed to this effect, as they want to learn more in order to prepare for university.
What does it bring to volunteers like us?
We all agree that volunteering at the SivilLAB makes us feel useful and happy to help and make a change. That way we can give back to the community all the while making new friends (Karola, the members of the OAK association, the refugees we met…)
As international students it is also the opportunity for us to dive deeper into Turkish culture and discover Turkish food (by learning to prepare it and by working together with Turkish students in the volunteer team).
We are also taking away new skills that will help us in our professional lives, such as managing international groups, teamwork (how to work with different people from different associations), event/project management (budgeting, marketing, concretising ideas, implementing project steps…).
All these new achievements are also formalised in a Non-Academic Transcript we receive from SivilLAB, summarising our newly acquired hard and soft skills.
At this point, all of us would also like to talk about what volunteering means to us individually:
Many are those who asked me: why do you get enrolled in Volunteering programs? Or why are you participating in such activities without getting any real benefit from it? But the truth is that they don’t realize that seeing other people’s faces shine with a little smile, making your heart shine as well, is the real benefit.
When you volunteer, you do not expect recognition or payment. A volunteer is paid with Love. A Love that makes your grow stronger, always ready to provide help and support for others. I strongly believe that no act of kindness, no matter how small it might be, is ever wasted. *Give your hands to serve, and your heart to Love* – Mother Theresa
Volunteering? For me, it is another lifestyle that makes you happy while helping people. And I think true happiness comes from doing all the good work you can without expecting anything back and this is all that volunteering is about. It helps you build up a stronger personality, network, motivation…etc. Putting a smile on another person’s face is the best accomplishment I can ever make.
Why volunteering? Since I’m still a student I think it’s the only way for me to fight some issues that make our daily life harder and harder.
For me volunteering is a chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around me and try to make them happier.
What are the next steps for us in this project?
In the future, we want to participate in new projects that are going to bring people together as one society.
We thought about a new project, which revolves around gardening. We would like to improve the Open Arms Kayseri centre’s outside, to make it even more welcoming to visitors. It will also be fun to involve the children in the gardening project.
We also want to launch more projects — bigger projects as well — and for that we need the support of new students, as the association is developing.
There’s only one more thing left to say:
We are waiting for you to join us! Come explore new volunteering opportunities and projects with SivilLAB at AGU!
For any questions about SivilLAB activities in Kayseri, you can contact Karola under: firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect with SivilLAB and Open Arms Kayseri via: