Sunday, January 2, 2011




02 January 2011, Sunday /


PHOTO Young Tarlabaşı drummers performing in their studio.

In İstanbul’s Tarlabaşı neighborhood, Roma, Kurdish, Turkish, Laz and African communities live on the same street. Although where they live is very close to the city’s heart, Tarlabaşı residents suffer from poverty.

The richness of the neighborhood is its variety of colors. Here people from many different ethnic backgrounds live together. What they have in common is that they all do their best to survive despite their poverty.

In 2006, an immigration center affiliated with İstanbul Bilgi University opened the Tarlabaşı Community Center. The center has the difficult task of trying to take these children and their families from disparate ethnic backgrounds and meld them into a cohesive community. The Tarlabaşı Children’s Orchestra is a beautiful example of this.

A member of the orchestra, Ramazan Gümüş (16), says his life has profoundly changed thanks to the orchestra. “In the places we play concerts, people watch us with interest. The things I see at the universities where we perform affects me deeply. I want to study like them,” he says.

Loving to play guitar and darbuka, Eren Kuş (9) says he spends three days at the center every week. “I come here as soon as I get out of school. I love to play guitar. I want to be a good guitarist in the future,” he says.

Eight-year-old Helin Sukorkut hurries to the center even before she goes home and changes. The youngest person in the orchestra course, she started going to the center six months ago.

The center’s activities target socially alienated individuals who have just moved to the city as well as women and children who live in poverty.

The center’s social services expert, Ceren Suntekin, says children who could not stand one another before are now taking violin or guitar classes together. She highlights the positive effect on the children of the children’s orchestra project, named “Guitar Sounds in Tarlabaşı,” which has been supported by the İstanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency, and says that they got the support of the families because the streets are not an appropriate place for children to spend time safely. “At first, muhtars -- local officials -- criticized us, saying, ‘Many came with the same agendas before you but they failed.’ [Later] even the police officers who visited us said, ‘If they did not love you, they would already be throwing stones at your building and windows’,” she explains.

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