Here is another story from the ‘Tardis’ files; this time of a project that we completed just over a year ago. It’s topical because a few weeks ago the education authorities sent in a work team to fit spanking new, double glazed windows and new doors. This is pretty wonderful for the staff and children because now, when it rains, they won’t have waterfalls cascading down the walls and across the floors. For us it means that there are some ‘repairs’ to be done touching up the murals that the story that follows is all about . . .
The looks of delight and wonder on the faces of the primary school kids of our village have been priceless as, day-by-day (weather permitting), the drab, utilitarian cream and pink walls of the school’s buildings have been transformed. With the benefit of hindsight this has been a wonderful project to be a part of, but, there were times when the sheer scale of it was pretty daunting.
It all began with the creation of the ‘Okçular Book Project’ just over two and a bit years ago; regular readers of ‘Land of Lights’ and ‘Today’s Zaman’ may recall the publication of ‘Okçular Village – a Guide’ and our commitment to use all of the money raised from sales to fund environmental and community projects in our village. The popularity of the book was such that we were able to provide a play park for the children within a few months; our second project was to brighten the village school by planting gardens and painting lively murals on the outside walls of the classrooms. Our hope was that this would create a pleasant learning and teaching environment for students and staff.
Our team consisted of Fiona MacRae, a retired head teacher from Scotland and a talented self-taught artist; Gülay Çolak, a remarkable lady, confined to a wheelchair for the past 10 years, also a talented self-taught artist; Yeliz Bozkur, school assistant and enthusiastic gardener and tea-lady; Janet Surman, sometime artist, mediator and paint mixer; and me, Alan Fenn, dogsbody, ‘gopher’ and general labourer. We began work on 17th November 2009.
The kids were involved from the start; it was their ideas that fueled the themes for each part of the walls and it was their paintbrushes that helped to create the wonderful pictures that have evolved from those ideas. Whenever we ‘wrinklies’ wilted the enthusiasm from the children revived us; as did the numerous lunchtime meals provided by parents and neighbours who were as delighted by the transformation as the kids.
Donations from individuals and local businesses have filled the new gardens with flowers, shrubs and trees. Logs have provided sitting and play areas; charming fences, made and painted by teachers and children, now enhance and protect the gardens. There is a new sun dial and a ‘bird garden’ complete with a beautiful bird table. There has been attention from the local press and having the odd tourist bus stop for a photo opportunity doesn’t surprise us any more.
We applied our last daubs of paint and planted our last shrub on 23rd February 2010 – 3 very satisfying months. Yeliz will carry on looking after the gardens (along with much else), our artists are talking about starting an Art Club with the children and funds from Okçular Book Project can be used to provide materials and equipment. All-in-all this has been a lot of fun; it has fired us up for our next project – an outdoor chess set and playing ‘board’ for the enthusiastic members of the school’s chess club.
So, how does this ‘Okçular Book Project’ work? Well, there are two books; the first is called ‘Okçular Village – a Guide’. Printed in Turkish and English, the book covers some of the history of the village, many of the old folks stories in their own words, detailed maps and walks and lists of flora and fauna. There are lots of photographs, all printed on high quality paper and stitched for security; even if you never plan to visit our area it is a wonderful insight into a different world. It also makes a terrific gift and is priced at just TL15! The second book is called ‘Backways & Trackways’ and is a dedicated walking and cycling guide with accurate hand-drawn maps and very clear instructions to keep you on course. Covering the areas around Dalyan, Çandır, Okçular and Kösten and Ölemez Mountains ıt will give you the confidence to venture into places you never knew existed. Published just a short time ago and priced at only TL20 it has outstripped our wildest expectations. Copies can be obtained locally in Dalyan and Okçular or mailed to you here in Turkey or anywhere on the planet; payment can be made via PayPal from http://okcular.net Every bit of the cover price goes towards environmental and community projects in our village; no profit or commission are taken. The books are a wonderful read, great value for your donation and you’d be supporting a really good cause. Contact me by email at the address below if you want more information. Meanwhile, here’s a few more photographs of the ‘all-new’ Okçular Village Primary School.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Village (firstname.lastname@example.org)