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A Tree in the Forest of Compassion

As part of our Social Cohesion through Education program we are organizing an event called “Being a Tree in the Forest of Compassion” with children aged 10-14. This program is run in İstanbul and Şanlıurfa with the support of UNICEF. We welcome the children to the forest of compassion where living beings of different colors, races and species live together peacefully and ask them to imagine and paint themselves as a tree to be part of this magical environment.

Join us in exploring  this colorful forest of compassion, made up of unique trees drawn by children!
In this forest, different trees with their own characteristics live together in harmony. This forest warmly embraces each tree; it grows beautifully with them! In this forest, some trees have blue trunks, and some trees do not bear fruit, but rather a wish. Some whisk you away to faraway places when you enter their foliage, some create an environment of peace and bring together everyone as friends.

Enjoy this month’s forest of compassion: 

“Since I recently lost my older sister, I drew the “Tree of Heaven” and my sister next to it. I think she lives in the Forest of Compassion, too.” Neşe, 12 years old 

“Our classroom is also like the forest of compassion. We all have different characteristics and live together without fighting.” Ali, 13 years old 

“If we think of the forest of compassion as one world, we are like trees. We have different characteristics; we are different colors.” Efe, 12 years old 

At the beginning of the event, we talked about the importance of living together with our differences and asked the children what kind of tree they envision when we talk about the Forest of Compassion. Here are two of the comments we have received from children: 

“The Forest of Compassion is like a forest where there is no fighting, and everyone lives together.” 

“Like a caring forest where no one is excluded.” 

Children were asked to write their strengths on the trunks or branches of the trees they draw. By helping children identify their strengths, we help them improve their psychological resilience and coping skills. 

“Thanks to this event, I realized what my strengths are.” Ayşe, 13 years old 

After children paint themselves as trees, we encourage them to recognize their strengths and to think about the people they trust and the environment they need. Next, we discuss  how they can achieve social cohesion in their classrooms, even though they each have different strengths, characteristics and needs. This creates the setting to transform the classroom into a Forest of Compassion.

In one of the classrooms, we visited the children expressed disharmony and were not following the rules, talking all the time, bickering, and not listening to each other while talking. This turned around as they discussed social cohesion and identified what works for a socially cohesive environment; being fair, not being entitled, behaving respectfully, being open and honest, empathizing, listening to each other, and using slang and bad words. 

Recognizing one’s own strength, discovering ways to support others 

In the “Sannum’s Story” activity, we read a social cohesion story with elementary students. This time we had the students picture themselves as beings in the Forest of Compassion and to think about how these beings can help and support others with their strengths. 

Mehmet, Year 4 student 

Our student, who made the drawing above, imagines himself as a cat and expresses that his cat has a special power that turns everyone into a friend. In the picture you can see how he turns a chair into a cute friend!

İpek, Year 4 student 

Saspot, which you can see in the drawing above, is a fantasy creature drawn by another student. Saspot is a fantastic creature who use his colorful fins as wings to fly and can swim,run fast, protect its friends from danger. For example, it can instantly catch a cat that falls from a tree! 

Information about the Social Cohesion through Education Program 

Psychological trauma is a major barrier to learning and has a negative impact on child’s school environment. Through our Educational Programs, we aim to eliminate the negative impact of psychological trauma on learning, develop a trauma-informed approach in the school environment, and strengthen social cohesion. 

Through the Social Cohesion through Education program, which we have been implementing since 2020 as part of our Education Programs in Istanbul and Şanlıurfa provinces, we aim to promote social cohesion in schools and prevent bullying among peers. As part of the program, we identify schools’ needs in terms of peer bullying and social cohesion and conduct field studies that help develop prevention measures for these needs. We also create a basis for sharing experiences by bringing together institutions and organizations working in the field of social cohesion and peer bullying, and we aim to help ensure that work in this area moves forward in a coordinated way by disseminating best practices . Detailed information about the program and the videos we have created for children and parents on bullying can be found here: https://mayavakfi.org/education-programmes

*The names of the children in this article have been changed to protect their privacy rights. 

*This article was translated with the support of our volunteer Zeynep Tuğçe Özdemir. 

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