Darulaceze: Sheltering society's weakest

The Istanbul institution has been sheltering the impoverished and elderly since 1895 in a multicultural environment which was unusual in those days

Darulaceze: Sheltering society's weakest

World Bulletin / News Desk

In 1895 Sultan Abdul Hamid II set up the Darulaceze institute to help Istanbul cope with the influx of citizens migrating from former Ottoman lands. Today, it continues to be a shelter for Turkey's elderly and improverished.

Darulaceze's 525, mostly elderly, residents are provided with regular meals throughout the day and have their medical needs catered for by the institutes ten doctors and 235 nurses but it has also gained a reputation for its tolerance.

Alongside its social and health care services, the institute provides its residents with a place to worship in peace - regardless of religion. Its garden houses, side-by-side, a mosque, church and synagogue.

“Even though mosques had only one imam and an assistant, churches had four priests,” says Darulaceze's President Nezvat Bayhan, adding that one church was turned into a synagogue when Jews began to be admitted to Darulaceze.

Sultan Abdul Hamid II originally funded the project by selling his personal belongings and collecting gold and jewellery from members of his family. “That shows Abdul Hamid’s generosity,” says Bayhan.

Today, the institution relies on selling products, charity donations and funding from Istanbul's municipalities to continue providing its services.

Among the 525 current residents of Darulaceze, there are eight non-Muslims. The one Jew who lived there died recently but the instituions maintains its connection to the community; Jewish religious leaders held an inter-faith Iftar service during Ramadan in 2013.

There were about 400 Muslims and about 400 non-Muslims when the institution was first established but the number has decreased with the corresponding shrinking of the non-Muslim Turkish population and the opening of new elderly homes by some minorities.

Bayhan says that many of the institues' foreign visitors are impressed by the fact that three religions are able to worship side-by-side. “They are amazed that we do not request any money from our residents,” he says.

Though the eldely are the main beneficiaries of Darulaceze's services, which have helped more than 71, 000 people, it also serves as a house for children under the age of three and provides for adults who cannot sustain their daily life by themselves.

Residents are given therapy and can do activities like wood painting and producing organic socks which are sold to visitors.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Ocak 2014, 11:20