Placed in the middle of Turkey, Cappadocia is known from all around the world for its unique geology, caves and famous balloon flights. Thousands of years ago, ancient people came to central Turkey to build their small villages in caves. This tradition lasts until this day: Most of the buildings in
the city were carved into caves and are filled with restaurants and shopping facilities for tourists.
But besides these attractiive tourism lies a special place for very big reasons. It is called Little Prince Academy, which is a place for disabled people. Educated volunteers help to improve their abilities. Because the son of the former owner and initiator of the academy, Hassan, got Trisomy 21, also known as Down’s Syndrome, the Little Prince Academy came into being. Hassan decided to spend his money to develop a project, which provides equality and freedom to its visitors. Surrounded by a beautiful vulcanic landscape, the academy which was build into the rocks, has their own horse ranch, an open air cinema and a garden that is designed like a small permaculture, where they produce their own food.
But not only on the outside everything looks well planned and designed. Inside, the academy is designed perfectly to accommodate the different disabilities of the special visitors. After entering the cave there is a kitchen, where the volunteers can cook fresh vegetables from their own garden. Moreover, there are several rooms for music therapy, meditation and dance workshops. Everything fits to the needs of the special visitors, there are no barriers for those who have a wheelchair and, ropes on the walls to support safe walking. Toys and music instruments are selected, in order to improve lack of different abilities. To support and take care of those visitors, volunteers from all around the world come to the academy. They are hosted in their own several apartments which look like a converted truck.
The focus at Little Prince Academy lies on multiple disabilities. Therefore, every morning the volunteers meet up to discuss in detail, what kind of workshops and therapies they will provide. The Little Prince Academy chooses volunteers with specific specializations, like, for example, dance performers or people with psychological or educational background in social sciences. The next step is to prepare everything, like building a course for horse-therapy. After those activities the kids usually eat something freshly cooked before the next round of activities will start. Everything at Little Prince is well organized, they have someone who is cooking for the disabled and the volunteers, they have coordinators who plans the visits of the people and volunteers.
There even is a gardener who is responsible for fixing everything inside and outside the cave. And of course, all the volunteers help everyday to maintain this place, to keep it like an oasis. We had a talk with Ezra from Turkey who is working at Little Prince Academy for one year. Ezra is the coordinator for the volunteers and prepares several workshops for the visiting people. Educated in the social sciences, Ezra writes reports for the doctors after every workshop, to give them detailed knowledge about their development. She explained that many of the people who come to the Little Prince Academy have been really shy and isolated, but after a while they got used to the workers and the place, so they started to develop positively a lot.
Especially the horse therapy is showing big effects, like increasing confidence, she explained. In fact, the kids are getting a better connection to the horse and are able to lose their fears as well as learn to coordinate multiple tasks, like catching a ball while sitting on the horse. From a certain viewpoint, those activities might seem to be very easy and small, but they are big steps for the people and are helping in their development.
We asked Ezra what disabilities the people who came to Little Prince Academy have. She explained that they are working with people that have several different disabilities like Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Schizophrenia, and other mental and physical disabilities. The workshops and programs also address the lack of confidence or hyperactivity. To prepare them the most, the volunteers are preparing different workshops. Furthermore, the people who are coming to Little Prince Academy have a huge variety in age, which also provides different workshops and tasks. We have been curious of how the project is financed and whether they get support by the government. Ezra explained that the owner Hassan, is financing all by himself.
We also talked to David from Romania, who iorganizes the horse therapy. He told us that before he came here, no one was able to do the horse therapy. At first, he didn’t know how he could start this project, but after a while and lots of hours riding the horses, he started to develop the course. What David has learned at Little Prince Academy, he will pass on to the gardener, for him to continue his hard work with the horses in order to improve the development of the therapy. We asked him what is special about this place. David just added, “ everything” – the internationally of the volunteers, the fact that you are the designer of whatever, you can make up your own workshops and you have that freedom to do what you want or like and additionally helping people with that – is what he likes most.
Little Prince Academy showed us how important it is to create places like that. Safe Spaces, where people can come and feel like it doesn’t matter which disabilities they’ve got, while getting supported by people from all around the world. The experience at Little Prince Academy also showed us, how things can change, like for example for Hassan, who used to build hotels, but because of his songs disabilities, he decided to support people with similar problems. In the light of the fact that there are not many organizations in Turkey, Little Prince Academy can be seen as a prime example for the general societal topic of inclusion in Turkey. Especially since the disabled are usually more or less hidden from society, it is important to work with them in such a positively connotated environment. In the end, this helps both the disabled people, but also those, who learn to accept disabilities as something normal in their day to day lives. Thus, Little Prince Academy paves the way for more inclusion and acceptance.
Little Prince Academy in Cappadocia
The Little Prince Academy is a unique non governmental project in Turkey and very important for its special visitors, made for local disabled people it is a prime example for the general societal topic of inclusion in Turkey…