Innovator of the Week: Yalkin

The following post was written by Yalkin, a Special Olympics youth leader from Turkey. Yalkin makes it his mission to strengthen inclusion in his community. Check out how he #innovateforinclusion!


The first step of the activity was forming a committee to organize the event. As I was the only leader and I couldn’t get help from my special partner I was alone and I knew very well that I needed help. We formed a group of 12 with the help of my mentor teacher.

My mentor teacher asked us to get in touch with different speakers who could deliver presentation to underline the importance of inclusion to all our guests during the event.

Our guests were special and partner youth leaders from four different cities of Turkey: Ankara, Istanbul, Karabük, and Adana. Their teachers also accompanied them. The venue was in İzmir — in TED İzmir College on 17Th February 2019.

We invited three speakers for the venue:

1. Funda Çiçek- A psychologist specializing in special education

2. İzzet Memi- A drama teacher and an education specialist who delivered a TEDX speech on motivation.

3. Alperen Menç- A champion Turkish swimmer with Down syndrome.

During the event the special youth leaders who participated in the organization also took stage. One of them sang a song using sign language. The other two and Alperen Menç played the piano and sang popular Turkish songs.

All mentor teachers also shared their ideas with each other. They gave speeches about the importance of creating a unified world.

The participant students — with and without disabilities — also made short speeches. They shared their experience on the inclusion project. They also talked about their future plans on the topic.

The students who had prepared warm up games before the venue created a great sharing platform for all the participants.

The most important thing that we need to share about the event is that it was a real sharing atmosphere. We not only enjoyed ourselves altogether but we also conducted a very important job. The ideas were not flying away. We were all aware of what we were doing.

The basic outcome of the event was that we came up with one very important idea. Yes, we are trying to help the special kids — but it is clear that it is not us who help them but we are the ones who are helped. We are learning to share. We are learning to understand. We are learning to be tolerant. We are learning to be open minded. We are learning to be more sensitive towards others’ feelings.

The event taught us a lot. We saw the success stories of our special friends. From time to time we questioned the concept success and asked “What is a real achievement?” We as the new generation are the ones who will define the word “success” once again because we now know very well what dedication, hard work, continuity, understanding, and tolerance are. We used to love to use these words in our daily conversations but we never thought about making them part of our daily lives and emotions. Now we are ready to make better projects and to move ahead. We are not going to stop being volunteers in the field when we graduate from our schools. We will be helping the special kids throughout our lives and they will be teaching us the meaning of life, love, tolerance, understanding, and empathy.

For a unified world! All together!

The 2019 Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative is supported through partnerships with Hasbro, Inc., The Samuel Family Foundation, theOffice of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects

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