As in many countries, girls are at a significant disadvantage in Turkey, particularly if they have a disability. While access to education is increasing for girls, few schools are equipped to offer additional programs that support girls’ overall psychological well-being and empowerment. Cultural pressures often limit their participation in outside activities, and there are few ‘safe spaces’ for girls in terms of programs and activities available.
The challenges for girls living under state care are intensified as they are often under strict watch by dorm staff and particularly vulnerable due to their backgrounds of trauma and the less than ideal experiences living in the state system. While there are a number of strong NGOs working on gender equality, women’s rights and youth development, few programs incorporate all of these perspectives and focus on the empowerment of adolescent girls, particularly for those at-risk and from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Founded in 2004, Alternative Life Association (AYDER) aims to increase social inclusion for young people, especially those with disabilities. AYDER pursues this purpose by offering activities under two leading programs: Alternative Camp (based in Izmir, offering mainly water sports activities such as diving) and Dreams Academy (focusing on the arts, i.e. culinary arts, music, acting, percussion, DJ, photography to promote social inclusion amongst the most excluded youth). In fact, it was Alternative Camp (based in Izmir), formed in 1998, that inspired the creation of AYDER. Since 1998, more than 5,000 young people with disabilities have attended the camp and 1,500 volunteers have served in this program.
In 2008 the Dreams Academy, based in Atasehir Istanbul, was established and operates artistic programs and activities in a center with three full floors of activity rooms. In 2014, AYDER opened a second Dreams Academy in the southern city of Kas. Since then, this camp has hosted more than 500 youth with the support of more than 100 volunteers.
EMpower’s third grant to AYDER (commonly known as ‘Dreams Academy’), funds the continuation of their “Girls Without Barriers” program, empowering adolescent girls living in state care through outdoor sports, personal development and team building trainings. The goal is to encourage girls’ development as motivated, confident, courageous and energetic individuals, to help ensure they have the confidence to complete their education and pursue meaningful lives.
Our Underwriters pay for all of our administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering at-risk youth.