Filed under: Development Social inclusion

kids living their dreams

Children with disabilities take centre stage at Dreams Academy (Photos: UNDP in Turkey)

Last month, I got to witness a first for southern Turkey.

The Dreams Academy, an Istanbul-based centre that works with some of Turkey’s estimated 8.5 million people living with disabilities, is scaling out – further down the coast to be precise.

In June, I was happy to be a part of the crowd, welcoming the centre’s opening in the sunny coastal town of Kaş.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration of Vodafone Turkey FoundationUNDP in Turkey and the Alternative Life Association.

Since 2008, the Dreams Academy staff has helped people with disabilities cope with social exclusion, by encouraging them to become more active through arts and sports.

Dynamic projects like Dreams KitchenDreams Company and Social Inclusion Band are working on the ground to generate real solutions to improve the quality of life for these people.


The academy’s solidarity structure is what makes it different – the partnerships are what makes these dreams come true.

This project in particular has been successful as the result of the joint efforts made by the private and public sectors, working together with civil society and international organizations.

Aydin Demirhan, mother of a 35-year-old Dreams Academy student, expressed her gratitude:

“My son has been a student at Dreams Academy for four years. Every day has been better than the previous one. My dreams have come true. I would like to thank to everyone who helped make this happen.”

Kaş is also known for its historic cemeteries, with graves constructed to resemble little houses.

This is because the Lycians, an ancient civilization that once inhabited the region, believed in immortality.

I believe that the spirit of the Dreams Academy will be immortal too, inspiring other projects throughout Turkey and beyond. Founder and President of the Alternative Life Association, Ercan Tutal put it best at the opening ceremony:

“When you turn your back to the sea and look at the mountains in Kaş, you see the shadow of a sleeping giant. Twelve percent of Turkey’s population consists of people with disabilities or chronic diseases.

These individuals are the biggest minority of this country…marginalized because of their disabilities, not made part of social life or the society, and made to believe that they cannot do sports, or understand art… We will wake up the sleeping giant!

If you know of similar initiatives in the region, drop us a line! We’d love to share ideas.