January 29, 2023

The Children in Need Foundation

I visited the Cratos Premium Hotel recently with Chris to take photographs at the Children in Need Foundation Winter Ball for an article we would be producing about the Ball and the presentation of the keys of a brand new minibus which CINF had donated to the Lefkoşa Őzel Eğitim ve Iş Eğitim Merkez.  The presentation was made by Mr Ersin Tatar, the Finance Minister, to the Headmaster of the school, Soner Őyken.  To read more about the Ball and the presentation of the keys for the minibus which was donated by CINF – click here

There were many familiar faces that evening and one in particular I remembered from the time of the opening of a new playground at the school which had been donated by CINF, this was Tűlay Umut-Near East Bank, Personal Banking Group Manager, and this brought to mind the article I wrote at the time for a local newspaper, which I would like to reproduce to highlight more of the excellent work this charity does for needy children. 

The Children in Need Foundation and Near East Bank


There are people who care and this was evident on 23rd March 2012 when my partner and I were invited to the opening of a new playground at the Lefkoşa Őzel Eğitim ve Iş Eğitim Merkez, organised by The Children in Need Foundation and sponsored by the Near East Bank.    This is a facility for special needs children with learning disabilities of all kinds, including autistic, downs syndrome and deaf children, between the ages of 8 and 18.  We were told that the school is hoping to take even younger children at some time in the future to give them an early start.

We arrived early and were greeted by the Headmaster, Soner Őyken who took us to his office and gave some information regarding the school and later we were able to talk to some of the teachers and gain further information.

We were able to freely walk around the school and met Ahmet Cem Aşgar who teaches mathematics, reading, writing, plus other subjects.  He was very helpful and took us to various departments to see the work the children had achieved.  One room was the art classroom where there was a fantastic display of pictures, handmade trays and bags, painted woodwork items etc. All of the items are for sale.   John Torris (CINF) joined us and he said that many years ago he and his wife, Mally, were devastated to find that there was only one paintbrush which the children had to share so he immediately went to the South and came back laden with bags of equipment for them.   He recalled that there was no grabbing at the items, a child would pick one and ask can I have this please    One very talented youngster was Mehmet, aged 9, who had many paintings displayed.   We were amazed at how talented some of these young people are and it should be remembered that this talent would not be recognised and developed without the help of the school and the dedicated teachers.   Here we also met Fatma Taner who is the art teacher and she also teaches the children how to make the handmade items which were on display.   Fatma has been at the school for 5 years but was sad to say that in three months she will be going back to Turkey but she will be continuing to do the same type of work there.  We were joined by Lawrence Floyd (CINF) and he told us that they are hoping to purchase a mini-bus which will enable the children to be taken out to the beaches and mountains where they can improve their painting skills and it will also be used to give them help with shopping, handling money and social skills

I also spoke to Emirali Evcimen who teaches a variety of subjects, including mathematics, for all types of disabilities including the mentally retarded and deaf children.  He told me that there are normally 45 children attending the school and there are 6 classroom teachers and 3 teachers in the workshop.

We spoke with James Swanson who works for Near East Bank and is an enthusiastic supporter of CINF, last year he rowed from Turkey to North Cyprus and part of the money raised was given to CINF.  He said that it is important to give the children life skills and this is what the school aims to do.  James also suggested we should take a look at the workshop and also the kitchen area and said that St Andrews Church raised money for this refurbishment project. 

We visited the kitchen and we were told that every day a different group of 3 children, supervised by a teacher, prepare breakfast.  There are 3 ovens so the children work on their own under the guidance of the teacher.  This is designed to give them some cooking skills and perhaps the ability to look after themselves later on.   Whilst visiting the kitchen we met Refika who is the “boss of the kitchen” and she showed us the cake she had made especially for the occasion, this was a very large and very beautiful chocolate cake and we were really looking forward to tasting it later when the playground was officially opened.

Although no-one was available to speak to us, we went into the woodworking workshop and discovered a vast array of tools and machines and my partner said it took him back to the days when he first started work at the age of 15 in the woodworking industry.   This was a very impressive department and I am sure would give some of the children good skills for later life.

There is a further separate facility for severely handicapped children and John Torris (CINF) told me that the Foundation is hoping to arrange for part of the new playground area to be covered so that these children can be brought outside in their wheelchairs and be able to have a shaded area to sit in and watch the other children at play. 

The new playground is excellent, with slides, swings and a large play area and the children were already making good use of the new facilities and really enjoying themselves.

Then came the opening ceremony.  Fatma Taner welcomed everyone and introduced the Headmaster who gave a short speech.  This was followed by a speech by Kemal Dűrűst,  the Minister of Education & Culture, and then Tűlay Umut, a Council Member of the Nicosia Turkish Municipality.  

The final speech was made by Izzet Atalay, Group Manager – Public Relations and Internal Services, at Near East Bank.  He spoke in Turkish and then English and said “I am very excited and happy today. It is an honour and a privilege to work in collaboration with the Children in Need Foundation, the School Management, the Minister of Education and other voluntary colleagues.  It is an important sole  responsibility with regard to awareness and we look to continue to provide in an increasing number to other parts of the country with team work and especially with CINF and other people from the school and hopefully we will raise awareness in society, which is missing.  Everyone is waiting for the Government but there are many private businesses and banks in the country so we extend the message to them to share and have the privilege and to have the feeling I cannot find words to express. Thank you everyone for being here today and I would like to work together to create many things.”

The ribbon was cut and the lovely cake was cut by Mally Torris (CINF), Tűlay Umut (Nicosia Turkish Municipality), Izzet Atalay (NEB) and Soner Őyken (Headmaster).  This was then sliced up and distributed amongst the children and guests and it looked like it was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, especially by the children and of course by myself as I am definitely a chocoholic,

The children gradually wandered back to their classrooms at the end of a very important and fulfilling occasion.   I must say that not being aware of the facilities available for special needs children, I was very impressed and gratified to know that something is being done and that it is being helped and improved by the Children in Need Foundation who are doing tremendous work and perhaps could be regarded as a role model for others wanting to help. 

By Margaret Sheard

Since this article was published Tulay Umut has joined Near East Bank as their Personal Banking Group Manager.

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