ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

After traveling 4.6 million kilometers on 4,760 bus trips, this summer's student-travel project has been completed. The eight-week project sent out 100,000 students to explore Turkey's geography and diversity while creating friendships across the country.
The Bridge of Hearts project aimed to broaden students' horizons and bridge the growing division between the east and west of the country by giving students a chance to spend five days and meet their peers in another part of the country.
In September, when the schools open for the new academic year, students who took part in the trips will set up stands in their schools and display photographs they took during their trips. With those photo exhibitions, the enriching experience of those who had the opportunity to travel will be conveyed to fellow students to raise awareness of the cultural diversity of the country. Furthermore, a documentary was filmed depicting the students' experiences.
The students, who were selected from seventh, eight, ninth and 10th grades in all of Turkey's 81 provinces, took part in cultural activities in the provinces they visited during their five-day tours as they formed new friendships.
Within the framework of the project, Bridge of Hearts memorial forests were founded through the planting of thousands of saplings in many provinces including Nevşehir, Mersin, Bolu, Sinop, Rize, Bilecik, Adana, Ağrı, Antalya, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Ordu, Istanbul and Malatya.
Considering that the circumference of the Earth is 40,000 kilometers, this distance is equivalent to 115 trips around the world. With the same way of thinking, since the distance between the Earth and the Moon is 385,000 kilometers, the Bridge of Hearts students covered a distance that is equivalent to six round trips to the Moon.
The project was introduced in April by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Minister of National Education Dr. Hüseyin Çelik and Turkcell General Manager Süreyya Ciliv and was launched in Diyarbakır on June 3.
�Thousands of our students traveled to several places in Turkey, going across to the east from the west and from the west to the east, seeing numerous beautiful spots for the first time in their lives and forming friendships,� said Ciliv. �This was a great experience for them. As their experiences are enriched, their belief and hopes for the future will grow and their dreams will diversify. We, just for these reasons, are extremely fond of this project. We are happy to have made a contribution to their development as individuals. We hope they will be able to take initiative and make their own decisions in the future.�
During the project, where Turkcell covered the cost for transportation, meals and travel insurance for the students, 645,000 lunch packets were provided along with 100,000 hats, bags and badges distributed to students during their trips. Some 2,380 administrators and 4,760 teachers escorted the students. Bridge of Hearts project teams were formed in 81 provinces to supervise the project. A total of 254 individuals took part in these teams.
During their tours, students on each bus were accompanied by a headmaster and two teachers from the province being visited assigned by the Provincial Directorate of National Education. Three days of the five-day trips were planned by the Provincial Directorate of National Education while the remaining two days were organized by host families. Accommodation was provided at the ministry's student hostels.