Allie Stryker 2013-07-08 15:59:45
Connecting the Dots through Massage in Turkey Growing up in a small Turkish village and not able to see, Seyfullah Aktas¸ had no idea that he would want to become a massage therapist as an adult. His options in life seemed very limited. But when given the chance to learn massage therapy through the Six Dots Foundation for the Blind, Aktas¸ took the life-changing opportunity. As a child, Aktas¸attended a primary school for the blind, but received his high school education in a local school. Aktas¸ did not receive needed skills to use a computer, find a job or even walk freely with his white cane. Unfortunately, Aktas¸’ situation is not unique. That is why the Lions Clubs of Istanbul and District 118 established the Six Dots Foundation for the Blind in 1972. The Six Dots Foundation for the Blind educates, rehabilitates and creates awareness for the blind and visually impaired in Turkey. There is clearly a great need. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, 75 percent of people with visual impairments and blindness in Turkey were unemployed in 2010. Aktas¸ began attending the foundation’s rehabilitation center in 2005. Located in Istanbul, the center is an impressive place. Receiving support from Turkish Lions, it provides free vocational training, education, swimming lessons, eye screenings, sports facilities and a digital library that lends audio books throughout Turkey. The rehabilitation center’s goal is to provide people who are blind with the tools needed to overcome any obstacles encountered in life. Turkish Lions have received Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) grants, allowing them to assist with this goal. This support means a lot to Aktas¸. “I achieved mobility and developed daily living skills. After six months, I could walk freely with my white cane in the crowded streets of Istanbul,” says Aktas¸. “Reading is my hobby. LCIF’s grant for a recording room enriched the voiced library, increasing my reading pleasure.” The real benefit for Aktas¸ , however, was massage therapy training, a program started in 1998. Program graduates are highly sought for employment in hospitals, nursing homes and spas. Originally, the massage training unit could only accommodate five massage therapy students annually. So, through an LCIF grant, the Six Dots Foundation for the Blind and the Lions Clubs of District 118-T expanded the program in 2010. The center now has seven beds used as student training stations and work stations for practicing graduates, including Aktas¸. “This was a great opportunity. I am married and have a child. With the enlarged capacity, I earn more money and can provide my family with better living standards,” says Aktas¸. “You have changed not only my life, but the lives of many blind people in Turkey. My friends and I have become productive, and this is a wonderful feeling.” For Aktas¸, the Six Dots Foundation for the Blind, Lions and LCIF made his dreams come true. “You have made me a free person; you gave meaning to my life,” he says. “I read more now and I work with more motivation because I have a modern work place. Thank you.”
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