This Thursday, a charity club run by expatriates living in Kuşadası in Aydın province ended its summer season activity of teaching less mobile Turkish citizens to swim with a picnic and many of the students testing the waters of the Aegean Sea for the very first time.
I had the opportunity to meet with Ponz Charity Social Club Chairman Robin Wilkinson. The group is named after the hotel which allows the club to use its facilities, including the swimming pool, at no charge. I learned that the project of offering free swimming lessons for people with various degrees of handicap is now in its second year. Every Thursday from June until late August, about 10 disabled swimmers ranging in age from 16 to 40 take part. The morning lessons are expertly run by a fully qualified swimming instructor.The group operates under the wing of a well-known, locally registered Turkish association — Kuşadası Engellileri Koruma Derneği (The Kuşadası Association for the Protection of the Disabled) -– and enjoys the full backing of the district municipality, chamber of commerce and acknowledgement from the Aydın Governor’s Office. All the swimmers are enrolled at the Kuşadası Handicapped Persons School, a private initiative almost entirely dependent on philanthropy.
“Everything is out in the open,” says Mr. Wilkinson, pointing to a notice board placed prominently behind the Ponz Hotel’s main bar. What he wanted to indicate is that not only are all of the club’s activities widely publicized, but the accounts are, too.
I wanted to know more about my fellow hotel patrons’ reactions to the project, as I had heard from another hotel in the region that some guests would look down on a disabled person the moment he or she enters the pool area, not to mention a group of ten or more. Not so, over here, I was assured. “The reactions are positive and we have a fair number of Turkish holiday-goers among the hotel’s regulars. The spirit and feeling emanating from domestic tourists is very encouraging, since our work is primarily aimed at Turkish citizens,” said Wilkinson.
Next Saturday, members and friends are invited to a Barbeque Show Night at the hotel, complete with three entertainers, yet there is something even bigger in the pipeline. A gala evening scheduled for Sept. 28, 2013 that doubles as a fundraiser will be a perfect occasion for beneficiaries, members, future donors and the wider Kuşadası public to wrap up this summer’s diverse activities before the club’s winter schedule of almost weekly get-togethers for a good cause begins. In my opinion, copycats elsewhere are more than welcome and dare I say, much needed.