God entrusts the children to us. Instead of asking the question of “Why they turned out this way” we set off with the question of “what can we do for our children.” The greatest act of kindness is investing in people.
Necla and Hüseyin Başyiğit’s three children are all from heaven
Muhammed Mustafa, Pembe Şeyma and Recep…
They are three siblings who are examples to everyone regardless of their sight impairment.
Başyiğits chose to tackle the obstacles on their way instead of resorting to excuses. Their inspiring story testifies to the strength of a united family and makes their loved ones proud.
Children are the Joy of the Family
It is the year 1987… Başyiğit family`s much anticipated first child Muhammet Mustafa is born. The child brings joy to the family and their happiness gets bigger everyday with the arrival of Muhammet Mustafa. However happiness makes way to sadness after a short while as Muhammet Mustafa is blind by birth. The family realizes that much later when he was six months old.
His mum Necla Başyiğit describes the first moment they found out Muhammet was blind: “We went to visit a family friend. Our hostess noticed that baby Muhammet kept looking at the lamp there. “The baby might have a problem in his eyes as he kept looking at the lamp all night” she said. When we took him to the doctor thereafter we found out that our child was sight impaired. It felt like the whole world collapsed on us. Only God would know what I went through by the side of my baby that night. We cried for days. We were so distressed. Yet we realized tears will not solve anything.”
While Başyiğit family takes Muhammet Mustafa from doctor to doctor in the hope to find treatment their second child Pembe Şeyma is born. The first thing the couple checks as soon as she is born is her eye. Now that they are not inexperienced like their first child they find out right away that she does not see either. After a few years the fifth member of the family, Recep is born. He too is sight impaired.
The father Hüseyin Başyiğit describes that day when his third child, Recep is born: “In 1992 when Recep was born I immediately went home and looked in his eyes. He was not able to open his eyes yet but I knew he too was sight impaired like his elder sister and brother. Somehow we were not shocked. We thanked God for His blessings. This situation no longer made a difference or put a barrier in front of us.”
Hüseyin and Necla embraced their child with tender love and cherished him. They supported each other and left the misery and sadness aside before focusing all their attention on their children. Necla Başyiğit recalls that when her children were babies her husband would not ever let her cry in front of them. He would warn her this would affect them negatively regardless of how little they are after consoling her. When Hüseyin was upset she would console him in return, “Let`s calm down, They are entrusted to us by God, Let’s do what we can and God would take care of the rest as He is their Creator.”
They worked toward making sure their children grew up as healthy persons. They would pray day and night that no harm would come their children`s way which is their biggest fear. Hüseyin and Necla Başyiğit got upset about their children just like other parents. After a while they stopped and pondered only to realize that this was a task given to them. So instead of asking “Why did this happen?” they started asking “What can we do for our children” which led them to search far and wide.
In the search for a cure for their children the family visits various hospitals. The mother Necla Başyiğit recalls those days in hospitals: “We went from one hospital to the other for a long while. Finally we started going to Hacettepe Hospital in Ankara. The doctors vaguely suggested making operation on the children. We were supposed to make regular hospital visits thus travel from Aydın to Ankara every month.
After a while it became really difficult for us, as we did not want to burden relatives and friends. To this end my husband requested transfer from Aydın to Afyon, which is closer to Ankara. We kept commuting to Hacettepe hospital in Ankara for five years. We would first go to the hospital then visit the private practice of the same doctors. However there was no progress.”
As they were going from one hospital to the next with their three kids Başyiğits started their special education as well within their capacity. Looking back Hüseyin Başyiğit thinks the best thing they did for them was to have started their education at a very young age. Instead of lamenting their fate the couple started to teach their children about their surroundings and people. While the siblings were trying to learn through touch and sound, they had also the opportunity to socialize and mix within the society before they even started school.
“We started Muhammet Mustafa`s education when he was 2 years old. They were special children therefore we had to find out or improvise special methods of teaching. I sat down with my wife and discussed what our strategy should be. We did it all alone by ourselves. We did not see a psychologist and ask for consultation. Seeing a psychologist was not popular back then anyway. With our God-given power and strength we managed to overcome every obstacle that came our way.” This is how Hüseyin Başyiğit describes the years toiling for his children. Elated by his children’s success his voice raises when he is talking about their achievements.
Başyiğit family never lost faith despite all the unfortunate things that happened. On the contrary they grew stronger everyday and trained their children for the harship that they will face in the outside world. Until school age the siblings played and had fun with their peers without any discrimination. In an interview Muhammet Mustafa recalls those years: “I cannot remember when I realized that I was sight-impaired. When I was small we used to go to the hospital. I might have realized back then. We were living in a village where we could play as we wished. Back then I did not know what being blind meant. Among children there was no disrimination between those who can see and cannot see. Yet at some point you realize that you are not like everyone else. You cannot react to visual matters like the others do and realize that you have a deficiency. For instance when you play hide and seek you cannot find the person who hid.”
Search for a School
Back then it was hard to find special schools for blind children. Only major cities had them. Moreover the family did not have any information about the curriculum of these schools. Therefore starting from Istanbul Hüseyin Başyiğit visited each and every special school for blind children in Turkey. Meanwhile Muhammet Mustafa came of school age and the family sent him to a school in Ankara. Muhammet Mustafa spent the first semestr away from home in this special school for sight impaired children located in Ankara. Hüseyin Başyiğit says that it is very hard for any family to send away their child at that age and even harder to do so when the child is sight impaired. Yet Muhammet Mustafa insisted to go to school although the idea of boarding school upset him so much that he kept silent for a long while before being sent there.
Muhammet Mustafa recalls those days that he struggled a lot: “You are a seven-year old small child. Your family is in Afyon. They leave you at a boarding school in Ankara and return home. If you ask any random mother on the street of her opinion about it she would strongly refuse. No one would be willing to send a child at that age to a boarding school in another city. So it testifies to how hard my struggle has been. This is what we got to do. I cried at school. My parents cried at home. Yet we had to give that struggle to reach this point. They put up with it. My parents could have refused to let me go to school out of the fear of the pain of separation or like some other parents did they could have behaved the opposite way. I have seen those parents. They would come to school to drop their kids at the start of the school year and they would ever never call again from September until the winter break. They saw the school as a way to get rid of him/her or as a last resort. I on the other hand always felt the support of my family. My mum would fill the pocket of my suitcase with coins for public phone. I could call my family whenever I felt like it.”
Instead of isolating their children from outside Başyiğit family took the first step to allow them to go out to the real world. Although the separation was bitter they endured it for the benefit of their children.
Meanwhile their search for the best school for their children is finalized and they made up their mind about Aşık Veysel School for Sight Impaired Children located in Izmir. This is how the family’s story in Izmir started.
The family moves from Afyon to Izmir for the sake of their children`s education and Muhammet Mustafa is transferred to the school in Izmir. When Pembe Şeyma and Recep reach school age they attend to the same school which is a boarding a school. So the siblings stay at the school during weekdays and return home on the weekends. The school is found but the difficulties have not come to an end. Hüseyin Başyiğit describes the hardship he had to endure, as he picked them up and take them back to school. “Our children are blind and they are in boarding school. I would pick them up from school and take them home in the weekends. I would carry these three bags, which are very heavy as the textbooks for blind children are quite bulky. And I have to hold their hands because they cannot see. On top of that we had to transfer three times to get home while everyone else’s children would leave home and walk to the nearby school. So that part was pretty hard for me.”
The days are filled with harship although this does not keep them from walking on their path. They go on working hard and pushing through. Hüseyin Başyiğit keeps going to the school, which is a long commute with three transfers, to pick up his children and bring them home until they complete their elementary school. The family, which endured much hardship through those difficult years continued to support their children with all their efforts to excell at school. As a result their children passed their exams with flying colours.
When finished elementary school another hardship was awaiting the children: to find a suitable high school as there is no high school specially designed for blind students. Hence the children have to continue their education at a regular high school. So the family starts searching for the most suitable high school this time. Majority of the schools refuse to admit Başyiğit siblings, as they are blind. But their parents do not give up and keep visiting schools and talking to their adiministrators. Their efforts bring home good results as they finally succeed to register their children at Mustafa Kemal High School in Izmir.
The first to go to high school among the siblings is Muhammet Mustafa as he is the eldest of three. First day his dad Hüseyin Başyiğit takes him to school while describing the environment in detail. “Listen carefully Mustafa I will not take you to school again. So you have to learn the way well to go to school by yourself from then onwards” he says encouraging his son to travel alone.
According to Hüseyin Başyiğit Muhammet Mustafa has trouble at school in the beginning. He finds it very difficult to be a sigh-impaired student at a big regular high school. He grows silent day by day. He loses interest in studies and comes to a point to quit school. In one of those troubled days Muhammet Mustafa comes home cheerful. When his parents ask, “I am very happy today” he replies. Before long Hüseyin Başyiğit finds out the reason of this sudden change in Muhammet Mustafa. The school counselor, who has noticed Mustafa`s difficulties, talked to him and listened to his problems. So Muhammet Mustafa was very happy about getting special attention and started getting used to school. Muhammet Mustafa builds greater inner strength with the help of school counselor. It becomes a turning point in their lives as his family puts it. Başyiğit siblings who excel at school thanks to the psychological support of the school counselor get their names written among the top students at school’s success chart.
When Muhammet Mustafa, eldest of the siblings comes to final grade at high school he wants to sit for the university placement test. However there is no material to prepare blind students to university placement test in the market. They rack their brains about what to do and his dad Hüseyin Başyiğit decides to read university placement test preparation books to turn them into audio books. The problem is that electronic gadgets to record voice and save audio files are not widely available at the time. He first reads out the test questions to a camera with batteries. The problem with this method is that batteries die out unexpectedly. So they search for another solution. They ask an mp3 player from a family friend traveling abroad. Since mp3 player is not widely available in those days it costs the family a considerable amount. But the family does not refrain from going to great lengths for the education of their children and to make sure that they do not miss anthing. Hüseyin Başyiğit starts reading out the university placement test prep questions loud and record it day and night on to the mp3 player that is brought from aboard. Muhammet Mustafa listens to these audio files saved by his dad after he comes back from school. Hüseyin Başyiğit admits that he thought reading test questions out loud was not a very hard thing to do when he started it. But as he kept reading the questions, which is around seventy thousand, he realized the magnitude of the work he set out to do. Sometimes he falls asleep while reading them, sometimes he gets a hoarse as his body is overexhausted. Nevertheless he does not give up and turns dozens of question banks into audio books. And his tremendous efforts for his son pay off and Muhammed Mustafa gets admission to university in the highest rank.
Muhammet Mustafa wins a place in Turkish Philology BA programme in Ankara Gazi Üniversity. Başyiğit couple is elated with the good news.
After Muhammet Mustafa it is Pembe Şeyma`s turn to prepare for the university placement test. She too listens to the audio files that her dad has prepared by reading out the test questions. Nonetheless she also goes to a cram school to prepare better. Hüseyin Başyiğit tears up and his voice shakes when he recalls the first day she took his daughter to cram school: “I took Şeyma to cram school and told her like I did to my other children that she will have to go there alone next day and that I will not accompany her. I have described everything along the way, where to get on the bus where to get off, where to turn right, and where to turn left. After I explained everything to my daughter she went to cram school alone next day. Are you sure you will be able to do this, if you will not be able to go there alone let`s call it quits here and now, I said. I can, she replied. “How shall I go all by myself” I overheard her saying to herself at home that night. I knew that she was terrified by the prospect. Yet I also knew that if I did not push them they would never muster up the courage to travel alone by themselves. So the next day my daughter left home. Of course I left right after to follow her. They always believed that they were going alone but whenever they were supposed to go to a new place by themselves I would follow them for ten to fifteen days. Of course they never knew about it at that time. Only much later they learned it. When my daughter came to the bus stop to take the bus she tried to feel the smells around with her nose and turned to the direction where I was standing. I had goosebumps at the point. My daughter was unable to see me but it seemed like she felt that I was in the same place with her.”
Hüseyin Başyiğit gets on the bus with his daughter without her realizing it and they get off together at the stop where she needs to get off. His daughter ahead of him he walks together until the school. But at a street corner close to school she bumps her head to a tree on the sidewalk. Hüseyin Başyiğit feels the urge to hold his daughter. But he refrains himself from doing so. “If I held her at that moment we would just return to the point where we started. They should be able to live by themselves.” The way he speaks about this long past incident shows that he behaved as he did with a heavy heart.
The life goes on with its bitter and sweet moments and lots of struggle. When they feel down they hug and find consolation in each other. Şeyma sits for the university exams and gets admission to Marmara University Turkish Philology in Istanbul.
Their happiness knows no bound as their youngest Recep also is admitted to university following in the steps of his brother and sister.
All three siblings graduate from university with their extraordinary efforts and their parents` endless support. They all get a job.
Hüseyin Başyiğit advises families with disabled children not to feel upset and that God never gives a burden that one cannot bear. “If I were born again I would still want to be the mother of Mustafa, Şeyma ve Recep” his wife adds. She thinks the love that a parent has for his or her child is never affected by the disability the child might have. Başyiğit couple sent their children to college as a result of their great struggle for years and the children`s success made them forget about the hardship they had endured.
Başyiğit family knew that the greatest act of kindness for humanbeings is investing in them. So they sent thir children to college to help them become a part of society as educated individuals with high qualifications. Hüseyin and Necla Başyiğit are now enjoying their lives cherishing their grandchildren.