IZEK provides educational drama focused psychological support after the Izmir earthquake

Izmir Education Cooperative (IZEK) is one of the recipients of the İzmir Earthquake Emergency Support Fund. With the grant, İZEK will provide educational drama-focused psychological support (drama therapy) for 144 children, who suffered trauma due to the earthquake, for a period of 8 months.  

İZEK will also prepare the Child-Centered Earthquake Management Handbook, which will provide a roadmap on how to work with children during emergency situations. İZEK will promote and disseminate this handbook among different stakeholders such as public institutions and CSOs working with children to strengthen them and help them get prepared for similar events in the future. 

See below the interview with Izek:

You are one of the recipients of our Izmir Earthquake Emergency Support Fund with the financial support of the Turkey Mozaik Foundation. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of your Izmir Education Cooperative?

Izmir Education Cooperative (IZEK) was founded by 38 volunteers who came together to find solutions to educational problems. These volunteers have researched, analysed, and discussed the problems in the educational system for about a year. Then, they decided to organise themselves under a cooperative, which offered a compatible platform and a legal entity for the solutions they could produce. Thus, IZEK was established in July 2018. Bringing together 38 educators, entrepreneurs, and dreamers; IZEK produces works on the three words available in its name and aims to deepen its knowledge and experience in each of these areas. Currently, IZEK continues to work on strengthening its organisational structure in a way that will support an environment for multi-subject specialisation with its 57 partners.

IZEK conducts studies and field research on Izmir. We are an active member of the Izmir Education Platform, which is carried out with the coordination of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality and the partnership of education cooperatives in Izmir. It is one of the voluntary organisations that aim to identify, develop and produce projects on educational studies in Izmir. IZEK also contributes to the promotion of Izmir by hosting young people from Europe through the projects of Youth Bridge.

IZEK plans designs and implements educational activities for pre-school, primary, and secondary education institutions (K12), adult education, and institutional training. With our collaborations with artists, we create hybrid designs that enable different disciplines to contribute to the educational processes. We share these hybrid designs with both the related institutions and individuals. IZEK also expands its area of influence by conducting training for educators. 

IZEK considers improving and promoting the systematic work of the cooperatives as one of its main objectives and allocates a big amount of resources for its infrastructure. We create procedures by working on case studies and contribute to the literature on cooperatives by writing about these experiences. We develop sample contracts on the topics such as partnership structures, financial operations, intrapreneurship, venture partnerships and provide training on these topics.

IZEK conducts its activities on these three main topics by organising workshops, social events, and carrying out projects.

Under the Online Education with Art Project, IZEK brings together teachers and artists. Can you tell us about the aim of this cooperation and what kind of activities you will implement under this project?

The preschool and primary school students, and indirectly the teachers, are among those who are negatively affected by the rapid transition from physical to online education as a result of the outbreak. In order to keep students active and engaged in the online lessons, artists and teachers collaborate to produce creative content as educational materials. Thus, this project is designed as an interaction area where teachers and artists will develop new methods.

As part of the project, teachers participated in workshops on different art disciplines and tried to apply the knowledge they gain in their online lessons for the benefit of their students. The educational programs designed by each teacher as a result of these workshops includes several art disciplines. We observed that teachers used all of these educational designs in their lessons and sometimes artists also accompanied them in these lessons. Thanks to these methods, children were introduced to different artists of pantomime, puppet, theatre, cinema, dance or photograph in their routine lessons and embarked on an experiential learning journey with them.

On the other hand, the artists convey the subtleties of their art discipline to teachers, while they gain experience for the application of their art in different fields. Thus, they work on a new style or a new format that will bring their arts and education together. Just like the teachers, they create educational designs based on a specific subject or problem. 

As a result of these joint efforts, the project makes its most important contribution to the children. The project provides them with educational designs that enable them to focus on their lessons better and achieve the targeted educational gains. While artistic literacy accelerates students’ perception, comprehension and interpretation skills; they become acquainted with artistic abilities, social awareness and expression skills that they have not yet noticed in themselves. The project also provides the opportunity for the artists who are unemployed during the outbreak to become partners of IZEK and supports them with additional trainings. Thus, it enables them to earn sustainable income with the trainings and workshops they produce.

The most important indicator for the impact and efficiency of the project is that the weekly meetings are still ongoing, although the project was officially completed on December 10. The artists and teachers still come together every Wednesday and continue to share activities that will combine their disciplines with other fields.

Can you tell us about the work you did in the field after the Izmir Earthquake? Based on your experiences from this work, what are your views on the coordination of post-earthquake response and the impact of these responses on children?

Immediately after the earthquake, IZEK volunteers carried out activities in many different areas affected from the earthquake. As a first step, support was given for providing the basic needs of earthquake survivors who cannot enter their homes. The focus was on meeting the basic needs such as food or clothing and providing financial assistance to those in need. IZEK volunteers contributed to the distribution of these aid and they also worked on storing the aid such as food, clothing etc. This voluntary work was carried out in different tent areas, coordinated by our partner Bayraklı Municipality and its employees. 

Our volunteers, who consisted of a group with different occupations such as psychologists, trainers, municipal officials, search and rescue workers and child development experts, made situation assessments in the disaster area and provided instant information to IZEK. At the same time, we received information from different civil society organisations (CSOs) active in the field and developed collaborations with them. All of these information we gathered from different actors in the field showed us each organisation was acting independently and there was no coordination on the field. Our impression was that there was lack of supervision or coordination in the work done with children. It was observed that some of these interventions may have negative consequences for the children who were already traumatised from the earthquake. 

It is our observation that uncontrolled and irregular psychological interventions and educational activities affected children negatively. When the children were asked about their opinions on the educational activities organised by the volunteers in the tent areas, they answered that it was entertaining but insufficient and sometimes tiresome because of the repetitions. The volunteers also stated that the support given was withdrawn from the field after a while and the children eventually were left alone. The activities implemented by different public or private institutions for earthquake survivors can cause harmful effects on families and children due to their irregular and unplanned nature. However, it is important to ensure sustainability of the activities for children in this period by planning them within a certain discipline and in cooperation with experts. Following these observations from the field, our main aim with the project supported by the Izmir Earthquake Emergency Support Fund is to establish a set of standards for working with children after disasters. IZEK volunteers have been continuing their work that they started individually since the day of the earthquake.

IZEK implements the Let the Game Start Again (Oyun Yeniden Başlasın) project with the grant we provide under the Izmir Earthquake Emergency Support Fund with the financing of the Turkey Mozaik Foundation. Can you tell us about the aim of the project and the activities you plan to implement?

Let the Game Start Again project was developed in order to create a systematic approach for working with children in disaster situations. The aim of the project is to produce permanent solutions in post-disaster interventions. The needs assessment was carried out and a holistic strategy has been developed for the post-disaster protection of children.

The main objective of the project, which is considered as a pilot project, is to provide a standard procedure framework for the emergency action plans in Turkey with regards to working with children. The content of the project was formed in light of the developments with regards to the Izmir Earthquake and it was decided collaborations will be developed with representatives from municipalities, universities and psychologists as well as educators. In this context, this project was developed after meeting with the relevant institutions and individuals. The project, which is planned to be 8 months in total, consists of a 1.5-month preparation period, 4 months of providing psychological support to children whose trauma continues and 2.5 months for the preparation of an article and booklet about the process.

All training programs and psychological support meetings will be organized on weekends and they will be online. Weekly coordination meetings of trainers with psychologists and the evaluation meetings with the participation of the whole project team will be in the project calendar which also includes the workshops, childrens’ sessions with psychologists and the family meetings. At the end of the project, an online festival will be held with the children.

The project will be implemented in collaboration with the Bayraklı Municipality and the project team will aim to reach out to the maximum number of children possible. Creating a large control group will enable IZEK to collect more data in order to strengthen the scientific publication, which is one of the final goals of the project. This large sample group will participate in pre-test and 144 children will be identified and included in the project. At the end of the training period, 144 children and the large sample group will participate in the post-test. The data will be provided for comparative analysis.

Separate groups will be created for the age groups of 6-7, 8-9 and 10-11 year-olds, which are determined according to the developmental stages of the children in the project. Sessions will be held with a total of 12 groups, each consisting of 12 people, on Saturdays and Sundays for 16 weeks. The trainings will be once a week for each group and will last 16 weeks in total.

The main approach in the project will be the educational drama method and four expert educational drama instructors will take part in the project. Before starting the workshops, the trainers will be provided with Digital Competence Training by an expert staff from IZEK, a training developed by the Ege University academicians and a training including the issues to be considered in traumatic situations by expert psychologists. Instructors will work for 16 weeks with their groups and same instructors will be present for the whole time. The families will be informed about the process once a month for 5 months and an additional evaluation process on this aspect will be included. 

IZEK plans to prepare the Child-Centred Earthquake Management Handbook within the scope of this project. Can you share the purpose of this publication and the topics you will cover? What kind of contribution do you think it will make to the field of disaster response?

As a result of the Let the Game Start Over project, we will have two important outputs. One of them will be the publication of a scientific article analysing the training and the project process. The second output will be a handbook that includes the experience, knowledge and 16-week educational content of the creative drama training. The handbook will be accessible to any educator and it will be possible to implement it after a short training.

As mentioned earlier, the main objective of the project is to provide a standard procedure framework for the emergency action plans in Turkey with regards to working with children. This project is planned to promote the child-centred action plans and to create an educational program which can be scalable and replicated.

It is expected that the article will be published in a scientific journal and shared with the academic community. Likewise, the opportunities for sharing the experience will be increased by sharing the handbook with the relevant institutions. The distribution and promotion of both publications will be done effectively so that it can be delivered to interested parties. In addition to the distribution of the printed publication, the handbook and other project materials will be made available online on the website of IZEK.

About IZEK

İzmir Education Cooperative (İzmir Eğitim Kooperatifi – İZEK)  aims to be a sustainable cooperative model with the awareness  of lifelong learning that strives to create a society with advanced  life skills by meeting basic educational needs of individuals from  all age groups. İZEK carries out projects and educational  activities for young people, refugees and teachers in the fields  of art, rural development and quality education.