The Dreams Academy is a centre for the disabled and underprivileged, always referred to as students. It is located in a sleepy village behind Kaş at the heart of the Turkish Mediterranean and the good news is that it is now officially up and running.
It is the brainchild of one of Turkey’s most prominent social innovators – Ercan Tutal.
I first met Ercan two summers ago when I was writing an article about his achievements for the Bougainville Travel newsletter. The article contained information about Ercan’s previous projects such as the social inclusion band, other alternative camps around Turkey and the original Dreams Academy in Istanbul.
Ercan started off as a dive instructor in Kaş in 1995 and always liked the laid-back harbour town. And even though his projects took him all over the country and into Europe it was always his hope to come back and make a base here. The camp is the perfect fulfilment of that long-standing hope.
I’ve had the opportunity to work in the camp as a volunteer for around 10-11 days so far and it really is just life-changing.
The camp’s main base is an old school which has been renovated and overhauled. The main area has been transformed into huge, beautiful library which is on its way to becoming the largest library in the Turkish Med: it’s a huge room with high shelves stacked with books and decorations hanging down from the ceiling, comfy chairs are around and also a long picnic table for large groups of people.
Off this central hub there are other rooms:
- large studio room with long mirrored walls and benches, the room has enough instruments for the whole camp even if someone is just playing small hand rattles, there’s music and dancing in the room nearly every day,
- a side office with 3-4 laptops on the table for volunteers to use in their free time,
- Two large conference rooms for important meetings (One room however does have comfy couches for people to go relax in if they feel like it) .
- And finally one small break area with tea/coffee and a toilet.
The camp also has a large yatakhane (dormitory) for the students that come in to sleep in and the volunteers sleep in a big tent are nearby. There’s a big kitchen area with one chef -assisted by whomever feels like helping- who cooks delicious, fresh Turkish food every day. Water and tea are available all the time. There’s long rows of benches and tables where the volunteers and student sit together and eat their meals.
Okay so I’ve told you what the camp looks like, but what is the camp actually like? What do we do all day?
The camp is about having fun, letting out your creative side. There’s no lessons, the volunteers don’t teach the students. The camp involves all type of activities and, trust me, there’s no standing still. There’s no set itinerary; it’s about what everyone feels like doing. Someone might feel like painting one day so they’ll go around collecting stones and painting pine cones and then everyone will sit together and paint! A lot of time is spent in the music room, everyone picks up and instrument and plays. Some people might want to dance and others just clap but whatever we do at the camp we do it together and somehow it always ends up being fun.
The whole week is not spent in the same place, during the hotter summer months people will go out on trips to the beach or on a boat trip. There’s usually quite a few outings to the horse-riding school which is about 5 minutes up the road. During winter months there will probably be more theatrical activities such as workshops or putting on plays. You don’t have to join in every activity, the camp allows people to be independent, it’s what you feel like doing. Sometimes volunteers and students would just prefer to sit around and have a cup of tea.
So what does this camp achieve? Why should you come over as a student or as a volunteer? The camp is a brand new experience!
It’s a chance to meet and hang out with people from all over the world, it’s a chance to try new activities and find something you’re good at.The camp shows students a whole new way of life and it teaches them how to be independent and be confident in themselves. The camp shows people what a difference music, art and sports can make to a person’s life even if it is just learning a simple dance routine.