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A SEASIDE VIEW - ALANYA
This Easter Sunday, many foreign residents in Alanya will be celebrating the feast day at a service at the local cultural center, hosted by Pastor James Bultema of the St. Paul's Union Church of Antalya. The local municipality is very accommodating to Christian church groups, providing them with a room in the Atatürk Cultural Center on a regular basis. So far, services have been held in German, English, Norwegian and Dutch. A reflection of the multi-cultural nature of the resort, which boasts over 10,000 foreign residents.
The holiday is also being marked with a charity fundraising day for the nearby dog shelter in Gazipaşa. A super-fete, with more than the usual homemade cakes and bric-a-brac, has been organized by a group of local German, Dutch and Austrian residents who have strong links in the local business community and have been raising money for this registered charity for over six months.
The shelter is currently no more than a field with fenced enclosures, without buildings, running water or electricity. Even in this poor state, it manages to care for over 120 unwanted or injured dogs. Many of the dogs are the victims of poisoning, which has been the preferred method of local farmers for "culling" the stray population. The charity group aims to raise enough money to build a kitchen and basic clinic where castrations can be performed.
Melanie, a member of the fundraising group, is keen to stress that the dog charity is only one of many projects that the group plans to support in the future. These foreigners have lived in Turkey long enough to know that animal charities aren't considered a priority by the majority of Turks. Alleviating suffering in animals is, on the other hand, a cause that tends to rally Europeans into action. The sight of starving, miserable creatures wandering between luxury hotels upsets the sensibilities of most European visitors to Turkish resorts.
Fortunately, Alanya Municipality is way ahead of most other Turkish municipalities in controlling the population of street dogs. The municipality has been financially supporting a dog shelter in Demirtaş for around five years. Originally established by a concerned German dog-lover, the municipality now pays for castrations, food, personnel, and vaccines at the shelter. The mayor has even arranged for the fire department to fill a pool in which the dogs can cool down in during the sweltering summer heat.
Animals are not the only beneficiaries of fund-raising efforts by Alanya's foreign community. An International Women's Group has raised thousands of euros over the last 10 years or so, and has donated most of it to improving conditions in village primary schools. I accompanied a group of these women on a tour of several schools, where they chatted to the teachers about the needs of the students. Remote village primary schools in this area tend to have just one teacher who teaches all subjects to children of all ages in just one room.
Heated by a wood-burning stove and with no access to modern technology, the group has provided books, bookshelves and basic equipment on a regular basis to a number of schools. This trend for foreign residents to "give something back" to the local community is growing. Last month, a recently-created association of Danish residents in Alanya (DKAlanya), donated YTL 2,500 worth of books to village schools following consultation with the local education authority. Alongside social events such as golf days and dinner-dances, the association plans to continue its fund-raising efforts for local education.
It's heart warming, but not at all surprising, to know that foreign residents in Alanya are looking around for ways to make life better for the inhabitants of their adopted town, regardless of whether those in need are on two or four legs.