Date: 27-10-2005


Project Location : Kocaeli, Istanbul / Turkey


Project Duration : 9 months (27 th of December 2005 – 27 th of September 2006)


Background Information : People with mental disabilities are among the most vulnerable to degrading treatment, discrimination and abuse throughout the region. Numerous mentally challenged individuals are effectively stranded in private homes with overburdened and often untrained family members, excluded needlessly from participation in mainstream social life. The general public is largely unaware of the mentally disabled. And to the extent they are aware, pervasive and negative stereotypes reinforce biased justifications for isolation and mistreatment. Public ignorance and intolerance are reflected in the absence of mental disability issues from the agendas of most mainstream organizations. Mentally disabled people sometimes are reportedly barred by statute from public employment, and suffer discrimination in all spheres of employment, even though, with appropriate training and resource allocations, many such persons could work productively. 

The handicrafts made by mentally challenged individuals were exhibited at the Golden Bracelet Crafts Exhibition

Participants of the workshop held in İzmit

Project Summary : The “Bridge for reaching the forgotten smiles” project is a partnership project between IBC – International Blue Crescent Relief and Development Foundation, its Blue Crescent Special Education and Rehabilitation Center for Mentally Challenged and two Romanian NGOs working in the fields of mental health and rehabilitation for the mentally challenged / disabled: Estuar Foundation and Esperando Association. Through a series of events held in Turkey (workshop, seminar, crafts exhibition) as well as awareness raising, information exchange and networking activities, the project aims at facilitating the cooperation between NGOs working in the field of supporting the mentally challenged in Turkey and Romania, at influencing the policies and their proper implementation, at European standards, in the field, as well as creating a basis for future partnerships in the field of mentally challenged.


Project Goal: To raise awareness over the European integration aspects and policy alignments regarding the work on the mentally challenged / disabled individuals and to stimulate the dialogue between the civil society organizations.


Project Beneficiaries:

•  16 trainers of IBC Rehabilitation Center and 12 members of the partner NGOs from Romania , attending the workshop;
•  100 participants of the Seminar (NGO workers, representatives of institutions working on mental health in Turkey , mentally challenged individuals and their parents);
•  400 individuals / NGOs / institutions members of the Network's;
•  Approx. 200 NGOs and private & public institutions working with disabled, in Romania, Turkey and other European countries, members of the Network;
•  NGOs in Turkey and Romania working in the field of mentally challenged;
•  Mentally challenged individuals attending the Rehabilitation Centers of the partner organizations;
•  1000 organizations received the brochure of the Project; 


A scene from the workshop

Plaquettes were given to the speakers of the Building Unchallenged Bridges Seminar

Implemented Activities:

I. A Partnership Contract was agreed upon and signed between the 3 partner NGOs and a work plan was designed and agreed upon. Information letters of the project were disseminated to different stakeholders in Romania and Turkey .


II. In the framework of creating a Civil Society Network for the Support of the Mentally Challenged adata basis was created by the Turkish and Romanian partners and published on line on the of the Project, at the link: , The data basis consists of NGOs and institutions dealing (only) with mentally challenged individuals.. Presently, the data basis contains 354 entries for Turkey , 61 for Romania and 9 international organizations working in the field of mentally challenged. As a tool of the Network, an was founded to gather individuals and organizations / institutions working in the field of mentally challenged in Turkey , Romania and international recognized organizations. The is an interactive online platform of the Network, having now 400 members and standing under the Category of “Health Care”, on the following link:



III. The Knowledge Exchange Workshop was organized in Izmit, between 15 th and the 20 th of April 2006 , at the IBC Centre for Training and Rehabilitation of the Mentally Challenged. Participants were 6 IBC Centre's instructors and 12 delegates of the two Romanian partners. Besides practical demonstrations, the topics discussed during the workshop were related to: official regulations in the field of disabled / mentally challenged in Turkey and Romania and the EU standards & requirements in the field; best practices; social and professional integration; protected work places; vocational training; early education; fighting against stigma and discrimination, etc.


IV. The “Building unchallenged bridges” Seminar was held on the 10 th of June 2006 , in Istanbul , at the Yunus Emre Cultural Center . 100 people attended the Seminar and almost 200 people visited the crafts exhibition with the products realized by the mentally challenged. The topics of the seminar's presentations were in the sphere of: policies & practices on disabled / mentally challenged in Romania and Turkey; equal opportunities; training of trainers; children with autism; the place in the society of a mentally challenged; importance of networking and awareness raising etc. 

V. The “Golden bracelets” crafts exhibition was displayed at the venue of the Seminar and contained products made by the mentally challenged beneficiaries of the 3 partner organizations. The Seminar's campaign symbol was launched during the event, through the “Golden bracelets” distributed to all participants and audience, as well as to other NGOs in Turkey and Romania . The bracelets have written on and carry the slogan: “Supporting the Mentally Challenged”.


VI. The “ Bridge for reaching the forgotten smiles” Book : Gathered presentations and topics debated during the Workshop and the Seminar of the Project, as well as best practices of the implemented partner organizations were edited in 3 languages (Turkish, Romanian and English) and distributed to the related organizaitons.


Contact Details: Publications:  Project Donors:

Ana Oprisan, M.A.,
Project Coordinator

Tel: +90 216 464 68 82
Faks: +90 216 361 57 45

Merve Kuruhasanoğlu
Asst. Project Coordinator

Tel: +90 262 528 69 70

Project Book (pdf)

This project was implemented with the financial support of European Union, through the European Commission Delegation to Turkey .

This project was implemented in partnership with Esperando Association-Romania.

This project was implemented in partnership with Estuar Foundation - Romania .

This project was implemented in partnership with Blue Crescent Special Education and Rehabilitation Center .


Keywords: forgotten smiles turkish roman