Inspired by a photo of a new teacher in Van with her students, our Friendship Force Tour of Turkey ended with a slow surge through Istanbul commuter traffic up to the Ritz Carlton Hotel, our Pack for a Purpose drop off point for a Van school located almost 1,000 miles away. The comparison between this lofty lodging overlooking the Bosphorus and the Van schoolroom couldn’t be more pronounced.
Our group from the US included a Canadian and Australians who had pre-planned to gather notebooks, pens, crayons, pads and pencils while in Istanbul or carried with us across the 7,000-kilometer tour we had embarked upon. Below is the photo sent to us of the students receiving the supplies in Van, Turkey.
But now weary and far removed from our recipient students, what drove us to complete our mission? Part of the answer might have been experiencing the generosity of the Turkish people throughout our journey and being with Ata, our Sufi trip guide who read us from Rumi each day and walked his talk. He was with us every step of the way and helped us meet with Ipek Obal and her hotel staff.
In the moments we were together in the hotel, our tiredness fell away to reveal the soft glow we felt in our hearts as we included our faraway teacher and students in our circle.
Friendship Force International is a citizen diplomacy organization with goals of promoting international understanding, friendship, and world peace. While there are many ways to express those goals, we are grateful that Pack for a Purpose provided one more way to give back and say: Thank You.