Monday, August 20, 2012

Turkey’s 2012 Female Olympians: Role models for our youth

The 2012 Olympics were quite an event for women. As we at TPF fight for gender equality in all parts of the world, and especially in Turkey, we look for tools on how to educate young women and keep them focused on academics. It is a proven fact that all students, regardless of gender, that are involved in a sport, who participate in high school athletics do just as well academically, if not better, than non-sport participants and are less likely to drop out of school.” (Schneider B., 2003)  We can only hope these motivating role-models will inspire more females in Turkey to pursue athletics.

The event that brought goose bumps to most Turks: female Turkish runners, Asli Cakir Alptekin and Gamze Bulut, brought home gold and silver medals in women's 1,500 meters, with Alptekin winning Turkey’s first-ever gold medal in an athletics event in the Olympics. Alptekin’s coach commented on their victory: "When young men leave university nowadays, they drop sport, because they’re more concerned about their careers, but young women are taking sport more seriously; they are far more professional."

2012 also marked the first year in history that Turkey and the U.S. sent more female athletes to the Olympics than males: This Olympic year, Turkey sent in total 114 athletes, 66 women and 48 men. Not only were these female Olympians strong in number, they powered in determination. Earlier this month, TPF posted on our Facebook page about Turkey’s first Olympic gymnast, whose dream it was to make it to London.  A hardworking, strong athlete from the rural town of Bolu, that stated “At 9, [Uctas and family] were forced from their home by an earthquake that struck northwest Turkey. They spent a year living in a crowded refugee camp, where she practiced simple moves — headstands and flips — outside the tents.” ( Grit and willpower pushed her.

These women showed Turkey, regardless of income level or where you live, sports are an equalizer. They stand for a statement that all women of Turkey can believe in.

"We wanted two medals and we got them. It's like gaining two gold medals…This is the Turkish power.” – Asli Cakir Alptekin

It’s not only Turkish power, its women’s power.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Turkish Tunes in Phoenix

By Elmira Bayrasli

Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol fell in love with music in Bursa. Bursting with greenery and majestic hills, the western Turkish city that was once the capital of the Ottoman Empire, is a setting that inspires. That is exactly what the musicologist and professor does when he sits down at the piano or picks up the ud, ney and zurna. The latter are all traditional Turkish instruments, which Mehmet Ali knows much about. Not only does he play them, but he penned a book which is in part about them, The Musician Mehters.

It is in large part because of the musician mehters that Mehmet Ali helped the Phoenix-based Musical Instrument Museum expand its Turkish music collection. It is the most extensive single-country exhibits at MIM, with four distinct sections that showcase the music and cultural importance of mehter (Ottoman ceremonial) music, various traditions of the Turkish countryside, the music and movement of the Mevlevi Sufis, and the vibrant music of Turkey’s urban centers. Mehmet Ali acted as a consultant. 

“They’re all different but they overlap,” Mehmet Ali says, referring to the four sections of the exhibit. “That was a vision I had from the beginning as Turkish culture and music are very multi-layered; these layers have pivotal points where they meet.”

He says that Turkish music is “a fantastic example” of how various layers and art forms connect – an important factor he notes, especially since music “isn’t a compartmentalized form of art.” “The way we live, we’re open to influence.” So too is music, he says.

Mehmet Ali is excited by the MIM exhibit, which he calls “really extraordinary.” It was one that TPF founder and chairman Haldun Tashman was actively engaged in supporting. “It was a thrill to engage the TPF community to enhance the Turkey exhibit,” Tashman says. “It has been a pleasure working with the MIM team to deliver on the desire to expand and create a dynamic exhibit.”

TPF’s contribution has helped develop MIM’s Turkey exhibit to approximately four times its original size. The exhibit now includes 48 instruments and related objects, including two costumes: a whirling dervish and a musician mehter. There will also be shadow puppets of the popular characters Karagöz and Hacivat. The collection will include antique instruments such as a lavta from the late 18th - early 19th century, a rare santur from the 19th century, an unusually large ney from the 18th or 19th century, and a cümbüş by renowned Istanbul luthier Onnik Karibyan.

“MIM is a museum in constant evolution and we are committed to continually improving and enhancing every one of our exhibits with the assistance of our donors,” said MIM president and director Dr. Bill DeWalt. “With the generous support of the Turkish Philanthropy Funds, The Dorrance Family Foundation, and Haldun and Nihal Tashman, we were able to create a truly vibrant exhibit and we look forward to sharing the music and culture of Turkey with our guests.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Social Entrepreneurship in Turkey: Mustafa Sari Saves Van

By Elmira Bayrasli

This is part of a TPF series on social entrepreneurs, in collaboration with Ashoka Turkiye.

Booming is the adjective most often used to describe Turkey these days. Ranked the 16th largest economy (and growing) in the world, the country saddled between Europe and the Middle East is looked as a sound investment and economic model for others, especially in the region. Yet, it is important to note that this Turkish economic miracle is regional, contained to Turkey’s west. What happens in Istanbul stays in Istanbul.

Turkey’s rugged southeast is comparatively poorer, with income and literacy levels way below the country’s average. Cities like Kars, Diyarbakir and Van have seen a huge wave of emigration; young people leaving for better educational and career opportunities elsewhere. Those left behind struggle to get by, resorting to traditional trades such as farming, animal husbandry and fishing. Fishing is particularly popular in Van, which sits on the famous lake named after it. So popular, that in recent years it started to become an environmental problem for the region.

By the mid-1990s overfishing of the Pearl Mullet started to jeopardize Lake Van’s ecosystem. Because so many fish were being caught, the species was disappearing. That threatened the ecology of the lake as well as the environment in the region. Mustafa Sari is a social entrepreneur who worked to address that problem.

The gregarious Mustafa arrived in Van in 192. Since then he has been working with Van’s fishermen, families and government officials to map out a sustainable solution. It is a solution that is not only environmental in nature. While overfishing affects flora and fauna, its solution cannot be ecological alone. As Mustafa told me from his office in Van the other day, “people fish to work. It’s a way of life in this region.”

Mustafa’s solution is to connect those working on conservation, the scientists, with the fishermen who need jobs, and the government that must oversee it all. He has built cooperatives where fishermen pool efforts to catch and sell fish. Together, they reduce competition between individual fishermen and are much more targeted about where and when to catch fish. This is particularly important when fish are spawning. Mustafa has worked with the fishermen to encourage deep-water fishing during this period. Fishermen are not likely to catch spawning fish in deep water; spawning fish are usually at riverheads moving upstream. He has also worked to enact and, more importantly, enforce a law that prevents fishing when fish begin to spawn starting in mid-April.

Mustafa’s cooperatives also provide skills sharing that teaches the fishermen about the economics of fishing such as increasing the size of nets, techniques on slicing and deboning the fish, and letting smaller fish go. The results speak for themselves.

According to the leading organization supporting social entrepreneurs and innovators, Ashoka, where Mustafa was elected as a fellow in 2004, Lake Van’s Pearl Mullet are bigger today than six years ago: 19.5 centimeters long on average, up three centimeters from 1997. Bigger fish has meant bigger returns for Van’s fisherman. That is a win for the city’s residents as well as its ecosystem. Technology may be fueling Istanbul’s growth, but in Van fishing is preserving so much more.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Anatolian Changemaker: A Turkish Girl's Tale Part 2

By Hanzade Germiyanoglu

Why JAM?

imageWhen musicians get together and play unprepared music, they create songs that have never been heard before, and this is often called a "jam." When talented musicians do this, it often results in some of the most memorable music of our collective history. But that's not the end goal. When musicians get together to "jam," they get to share their unique skills and knowledge, as well as learn from the other musicians. They get to hear and experience other styles of music, expand their horizons and make something unique. They get to have fun, build community, and combine their collective talent, inspiration and skills to create something far greater than the sum of its parts. This fertile ground of diversity, trust and joy sprouts some of the most powerful seeds.

This is what the Anatolia Jam was like.

And so it was... Anatolia JAM was filled with an atmosphere full of appreciation, love and acceptance. It helped bring out the truth in all of us and created a secure circle in which we could share and learn from each other, discuss challenges ahead of us and revitalize the world we dream. It was invigorating to be in the middle of nature and at the same time with these purpose-driven individuals. They were like my secret angels showing me that being in peace with one's self and its surroundings should not be that hard after all. Peace is possible! Progress is not a dream. Change is not a fairy tale! Everything really happens for a reason...

imageOn the last day of the JAM, in the final appreciation circle, I heard our facilitator Filiz Telek, thank a list of funders who made this incredible transformation process possible for us. Imagine my surprise when I heard Turkish Philanthropy Funds' name! It was the organization I interned for, while I lived in NYC. Could this be a coincidence, or is there really "a flow" that leads my path of change?

As I was returning home, I was amazed by this whole new discovery and possibility of a different world's existence. I was trying to innovate ways to integrate this change to my life, making plans and projects to adopt this JAM effect to my office and to the city I live. As I was filling the application form to attend the Anatolia JAM at the office sipping my morning coffee, I had a question about me being a change maker, the social innovator... May be I was not. Now may be I am, because now I know "change" starts within one's self. It is not something that you bump into as you turn the corner. It does not come to you. You wake up, jump into it and "the flow" brings the rest. I know it might sound a bit "Pollyanna" to you. Well it did to me too. But after experiencing how possible it is to build a community of support and be a part of it, now I know it is possible. You may think world is full of mean people, cruelty, injustices and natural disasters... Very recently we had a devastating earthquake in Van, in the eastern part of Turkey, we witnessed loss, poverty and a whole community in pain. You would be amazed to see how quickly my jamily, my community that we built in Anatolia Jam start to organize to support another community in need. Then you would start believing in the power of the flow and the things it brings to you and your community. As it did to me...

imageFollowing the Anatolia JAM, I was invited by YES! to the World Jam 2011 in Thailand this past October. The Sabanci Foundation generously supported my participation to meet 30 young leaders from all around the world, from Burkina Faso to Kenya, from Canada to Palestine. Yes! Change is possible and Yes! it may not be as simple as a "switch." But, it is just a matter of time before you turn down the dazzling lights that blind you, volume down the crowds noise and you will hear the bells ring for you. Once you hear it, wake up and follow it. The flow brought me here...

Here I am in Punpun, an organic farm in northern part of Thailand, Chiang Mai with 30 ground breaking people with their ground breaking stories of change. I don't know how to thank all those people who made this real and possible for me. Now I have a dream to share with so many others, who seek for change and grow the world of jamily.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Anatolian Changemaker: A Turkish Girl's Tale

By Hanzade Germiyanoglu

Here I am sitting on a bank in an organic farm Punpun, in the north part of Thailand, Chiang Mai. I am reporting on change and agents of change. I have been thinking a lot about the concept of change, since I got Dan and Chip Heath's book, "Switch" at a Council on Foundations meeting in 2010. Is change really as simple as the word "switch" resembles? Is it an overnight process or a sharp decision people make?

Change is hard, especially when the present offerings of our daily life give some sort of stability and regularity. Comfort in an uncomfortable world is desired. So desired, we cling onto the daily grind like an addiction. But like any addiction, it soon comes to suffocate us. We start to look for ways to get out of the trap and slumber. We listen for the bells that will wake us up.

Bells rang for me back in September 2011, as I was sipping my morning coffee at my desk in the office. I was looking at an ad about an Anatolia Jam "event" in my inbox. It said:

"Are you a young leader between the ages of 18-35 working in the field of social change and community transformation? Here is our invitation to you..

Anatolia Jam brings together 20 young leaders devoted to social, ecological and economic change and community transformation for 5 days. During the gathering, between 2-6 September, in the Mount Ida (known as the Mountain of the Goddess, in the western part of Anatolia), participants will experience sharing, deep listening, self discovery, systemic thinking and community building and gain skills regarding those capabilities."

Excuse me? Community building? Self discovery? Deep listening experience of 20 total strangers in five days, on the "magical" mountain Ida? This sounded a bit exaggerated, especially to a person like me who can't stop for one minute in a day to hear herself. And, yet this so called "inner voice" of mine that had a powerful message. It was shouting: empty & meaningless. It's how I was feeling. It was the bell ringing for me to change the way I perceived life. "Should I answer this ad?" the voice asked No, no, no... Mountains, 20 strangers, self-discovery, deep listening, no way, not my piece of cake! Another voice cried. I was not a changemaker. I did not have entrepreneurial ideas or innovations that could multiply and change people's lives. I was just a programs specialist in a grant making foundation, the Sabanci Foundation, hanging around the real change makers, supporting their causes and standing by them. I checked the application form and forwarded the e-mail to Sabanci Foundation grantees to recommend them to apply.

The application form was a simple survey consisting of 10 questions about work history. As I was going through the questions I started to answer them in my head. Suddenly I caught myself filling out the form. Impulsively, I sent it out. I liked the idea of challenging myself in different environments and strengthen my survivor instincts. It's a side of me that I don't have a chance to recognize in my daily life.

One month later, I received an email that read: Welcome to Anatolia JAM! Now, I was scared.

Leaders who? Build community what? What did I do? "What did I get myself into?" I thought. Before I knew, I was in Mount Ida sharing my room with a stranger, getting ready to become a jamily, a community...

To be continued...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Happy International Women's Day

We can’t stop at TPF.

At the end of January we rolled out a campaign focused on Empowering Turkish Girls. Wow, were we pleased to see how many of you wanted to help us educate, uplift, inspire and encourage young Turkish women to believe in and fulfill their potential.

Over 2,700 people participated in our Facebook contest that outlined three projects working to empower Turkish girls. They are projects run by Toplum Gonulluleri Vakfi, Hisar Anadolu Destek Dernegi and Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi. Tomorrow, we will announce the project that will win the TPF $10,000 grant. The announcement will be made during our town hall video chat at 1PM EST/8PM IST/10AM PST. Participants range from UN Women, Partners for a New Beginning, Egitim Reformu Girisimi to Turkish Women’s Initiative. Please join us.

But our excitement doesn’t stop there.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Turkish Philanthropy Funds (TPF) and Turkish Women’s International Network (TurkishWIN) are proud to announce a partnership that will support Turkish women and girls’ education in Turkey: the TPF-TurkishWIN Fund.

The TPF-TurkishWIN fund will allocate five percentage of TurkishWIN membership revenue annually to the TPF-run TurkishWIN Fund. What’s even better, is that we’ve made it possible for TurkishWIN members to contribute directly to the fund. TPF will match dollar-for-dollar, up to $2,300, contributions made by TurkishWIN members in the first year. Initial year grants will provide scholarship to college students from the city of Van through Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi (CYDD).

With news and activities like this – do you see why we can’t stop at TPF? And we couldn’t be more thrilled.


Team TPF

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Making Gender History This Month

President Obama agrees, “While we have made great strides toward equality, we cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society.”

As we kick off Women’s History Month today, TPF is working hard to make sure that all women realize their potential and assume rightful place as full participants in society. For the past month we’ve focused on gender equality in our Twitter and Facebook campaigns. As we look to International Women’s Day next week we plan to focus our efforts to find concrete solutions that will close the Turkish gender gap.

One of those solutions is to support a project that empowers Turkish girls. Next Thursday, March 8 we will announce the winners from our Facebook contest that had three terrific Turkish NGOs competing for a $10,000 grant for their work to advance girls’ rights in Turkey. The announcement will be made during an hour-long “town hall” video chat with leading Turks and experts on women’s issues.

The conversation will be held from 1-2PM EST/8-9PM IST/10-11AM PST.

To join, RSVP to and click on this link:

Please test your camera and mic before you enter the chat room. If you have questions, please let us know.

Warm regards,

Team TPF