The registration of a company to operate an international school opened the door for us to solve our residence permit problem. We submitted our application for a residence permit on the basis of my work as Project Manager for the school renovation project. I rented a small office to work from and on the day I had to collect our residence permit from the Security Police offices in Istanbul, I was busy putting up picture frames on the walls of my office. I had a carry bag with my personal valuables in it, and that day I carried a hammer with me in the bag.
When I entered the premises of the Security Police, they asked me, as they always do, if I had any dangerous object or weapon with me. I just replied “no” without thinking. The officer on duty told me to put my bag on the desk to be searched and to walk through the scanner. When I stepped out of the scanner another officer stood their with the hammer in his hands! He demanded an explanation. I just declared that I had no dangerous objects or weapons in my possession and look at what they found in my bag. I was so embarrassed I wished the earth could swallow me. I was taken to a side office and interrogated for about 30 minutes. What was my business there? Why did I bring a hammer with me? Thankfully I could just speak the truth and stick to my explanation. At the end I was released to fetch the residence permit, but they kept my bag and the hammer in their possession until I returned.
After registering the company to operate a school we applied to open the “International Gateway Academy” as a foreign student only, international school. The dream was for an international school that will provide affordable, quality education to children of expatriate Christian families living and working in Istanbul. We knew that such a school will help these families to flourish and will allow more families to consider Istanbul as a location to live and work in.
A budget of US$250 000 was approved to cover the cost of renovations and the move to the new school. These funds had to be raised from the parent body and their network of supporters, family and friends. The budget was divided into smaller units and the parent body responded by taking responsibility for these units like a classroom, library, music room etc. This made the project more conceivable to everyone involved.
A building contractor was appointed to oversee the renovations and the work started in all earnest. Besides 18 classrooms and 6 administrative offices we also needed and elevator for 5 levels and a multipurpose sports court and a play park.
For 6 months all involved in this project ate, slept and dreamt school! It was a huge team effort to keep track of all the different phases and to make sure we stay in the time frame. The budget kept on escalating and the final cost was closer to US$500 000. If we knew that up front, we would perhaps not even started, but as the project took shape the funds kept coming too!
The extensive renovations were completed in time for the relocation of the school to happen during the summer of 2004. This involved setting up all the classrooms, including the library according to the specifications of the Turkish Department of Education. For a second time, Magda had to pack and move a whole library!
Before a license to operate the school could be issued we had to pass a final inspection covering everything, from structural assessments to first aid boxes. We almost failed the inspection because we had the familiar “RED CROSS” symbol on the first aid kit. In Turkey the preferred symbol is a “Blue Crescent” and we quickly had to change the symbols in order to clear the inspection!
The school opened officially in August 2004 and serves as a testimony to the faith of the parent body and everyone they represented during that time. It was a major accomplishment for a relatively small group of people.
Today, the school is still in existence and providing excellent education to a diverse group of children from the Christian expatriate community in Istanbul. You can read about the school here: http://www.igaistanbul.com/