Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Migrant Agricultural Worker's Access to Health Services

Posted By Professor Dr. Zeynep Simsek

Harran University Medical School, Public Health Studies, Sanliurfa, Turkey

“Not seen or heard.” That’s what policymakers, political decision makers, civil and non-profit organizations, scientists and researchers say about seasonal migrant agricultural workers. At the heart of sustainable development, these migrant workers make up 450 million of the world’s 1.1 billion agricultural workforce. Unfortunately more than 60 percent live under the poverty level and 80 percent do not have social security.

They toil under harsh working conditions, such as chemical pesticides, dust, damage, cold and hot weather conditions, without access to proper healthcare. Combined with living in unhealthy living quarters, lack of access to clean water, and unsanitary hygienic conditions, many suffer from enormous health problems. Without question, seasonal migrant workers are one of society’s disadvantaged groups.

A new civil society organization in Turkey, Association of the Protection and Development of the Rights of Seasonal Agricultural Workers, created in November 2008, has been working to determine the main issues of concerns and to mobilize public institutions and other civil society organizations. The Turkish-based Sabanci Foundation Grant Program along with the UN Joint Program to Promote and Protect Human Rights of Women and Girls and the Turkish Philanthropy Funds (TPF) joined hands last year to assist this new organization in Sanliurfa, Turkey. A city located in southeastern Anatolia, Sanliurfa is home to a sizable migrant agricultural workforce. It is estimated that out of its 282,936 population, 44 percent (124,630) are migrant workers.

"Seasonal Migrant Workers Youth Program" which TPF supported through the Sabanci Foundation Grant Program of the UN Joint Program to Promote and Protect Human Rights of Women and Girls aimed to reduce social exclusion of seasonal migrant workers from the rest of society in Sanliurfa through the training of 25 peer leaders in a five-day workshop. The participants in the training were then asked to relay the information they have learned to at least 25 other peers in their communities so as to create a multiplier effect. During the training, the youth worked together to identify problems their families faced and learned about the solutions to address those problems, including their rights to basic health services, social services and educational services.

The organization takes on other projects that aim to contribute to the wellbeing of seasonal migrant workers such as "Seasonal Agriculture Worker's Women's and Girl's Access to Health Rights through Visiting Health Services." It’s a $10,000 project that is working with Sanliurfa’s municipality and its Directorate of Health to provide basic health services to migrant workers.

Among the services being delivered is a mobile visiting healthcare vehicle that includes a mini fridge to keep vaccines in, an examination table, gynecological facilities, and first aid kits. There are four of these vehicles deployed in the Sanliurfa municipality (comprised of 33 villages) with the support of the Sanliurfa city council. This service is not only addressing the migrant worker’s health needs, it is also transforming local government and community engagement on health issues in general.

Directly as a result of the scoping meetings conducted with the Sanliurfa health directorate and local city council, officials have collected vital information about the community’s health needs. Village headmen have been trained on how to obtain clean drinking water and how to reach health care services in the region.

On a larger scale, a budget for healthy living has been allocated and measures to prevent these issues in the future have been taken. Through these measures, Sanliurfa has become a role model for improving the lives of seasonal migrant agricultural workers. Through the municipality’s engagement, there have been solid steps toward better health care and living conditions. It is a wonderful example of community engagement on a critical social issue that previously no one could “see or hear” – but that now everyone can do something about.

Dr. Zeynep Simsek, a faculty member at the Harran University Medical School, specializes in Social Health Sciences. Her research and areas of expertise involves examining societal structures and their effects on the development of children and youth, specifically in Sanliurfa, a city in Eastern Turkey. Dr. Simsek has been working on projects that concern youth health and migratory workers' health and social rights issues.

Visit TPF Website.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


In the spirit of Bayram and Thanksgiving, we have been reflecting on how grateful we are for your generosity and for your continued confidence in us this year.

We are thankful that with your participation and support TPF has been able to touch lives and make a positive, tangible difference in Turkey. Here are some new developments we would like to share with you:

- TPF's new grantee partner, Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi continues to contribute to the formation of a contemporary society in Turkey through education. Their signature programs, Baba Beni Okula Gonder and Kardelenler, and others, can now be supported through TPF.

- Another new grantee partner Türkiye Görme Özürlüleri Kitaplığı- TURGOK (Library for the Visually Disabled of Turkey) has launched a program to address the need for study books for the Central University Exam in Braille and audio format. They will provide not only study books but also hope for a better future for visually disabled youth of Turkey. This program is 40% funded by TPF.

- Anne Cocuk Eğitim Vakfi-ACEV (Mother and Child Education Foundation) launched its new program, The Rural Education Project, to develop and implement alternative education models in places where institutional and formal education is inadequate.

- Young Guru Academy has increased its creative libraries to 125 this year, getting one more step closer to their target of 5,000 libraries throughout Turkey. They have also launched the Remote Read-Think-Share Program to reach students they could not reach physically with the help of technology.

- Turk Kultur Vakfi/AFS (Turkish Cultural Foundation/AFS) has sent two disabled students on an exchange program to the United States, enriching the lives of the students as well as setting an example for other disabled youth in Turkey.

- TPF's first time grantee Mevsimlik Tarim Iscilerinin Haklarinin Korunmasi ve Gelistirilmesi Derneği (METIDER) provided additional training on civil rights, proposal writing and project coordination to the 25 seasonal migrant worker youth that originally attended " Seasonal Migrant Worker Youth Program." These 25 people now constitute the Youth Chapter of the organization, working to provide solutions for their community's needs.

Everything you do through TPF for these organizations makes a difference! Your involvement brings awareness to their issues, strengthens their missions, and most importantly, improves the lives of people. We hope these organizations inspire you just as much they inspire us.

Have a Happy Holiday Season!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Remembering Our Alma Maters…

Posted by Karalyn Watson

Turkish universities are on the rise, and some of their degrees are becoming globally recognized and accepted. In a recent ranking by the Times Higher Education of London, two Turkish universities made it onto the Top 200 World Universities list—Bilkent University at #112 and Middle East Technical University at #183.

On the other hand, the top five schools in this ranking were U.S. schools. One reason for this is that U.S. higher education institutions are being lifted up and forward by grateful and loyal alumni. Compare universities and colleges in the United States—which receive huge support—to Turkish ones that do not, and it becomes clear why U.S. schools usually rank on top. It’s no coincidence that U.S. universities also have the highest alumni giving rates. In 2009, Harvard and Stanford each received over $600 million in alumni donations. The alumni and friends of these schools are investing back into their institutions, allowing them to build new facilities, conduct advanced research, hire qualified professors, and purchase the best equipment, all making them world-class.

Some Turkish alumni ask: why should I give back to my alma mater? One answer is to make them world-class. Generosity abounds in Turkish culture. Giving to those in need, or to friends and family, is second nature to anyone from Anatolia. Yet, despite this culture of giving to one another, Turkish alumni do not have a philanthropic tradition toward institutions. This is especially evident in the level of philanthropy for higher education. Another reason to give is that we want our universities to improve and keep Turkey’s brightest minds in country. It is also vital to provide these Turkish schools with support so our hard-earned degrees can become stronger and more valuable on our CVs.

Additionally, we should give back out of gratitude for what was given freely to us—either from the school itself or from our parents who paid for it. This is a way of expressing our thankfulness.

It is important to understand why Turkish alumni may hesitate to donate back to their institutions, while on the other hand they may donate easily to a foundation such as Kızılay or Turk Hava Kurumu at Kurban Bayramı. One reason can be the perception that the universities are rich – that they don’t need money. Another obstacle is, due to past incidents in society, there tends to be a mistrust of authorities and funding. Lastly, in Turkey there is often a lack of the university “spirit” that is found on American campuses. Turkish universities are often missing the mascots, theme songs, insignia clothing, and other essentials that can contribute to school spirit and bond people into a community.

These obstacles can be overcome, but only with some work. School administrations could share budgetary needs with alumni and friends, allowing them to see the areas where increased funding could help the school improve. Second, the university can help by being transparent about how funds are used and staying accountable to the alumni donors. We must also cultivate a better school spirit while alumni are still students, giving them the feeling of a university family, and not just a place one attends for four years.

Lastly, the school should work through its alumni office to stay in touch with students after they graduate, keeping and updating their contact data and communicating regularly.

If alumni give back significantly to their Turkish universities, Turkey’s higher education outlook would brighten. We could decrease brain drain, improve the strength of our degrees, and watch our alma maters rise to world-class levels.
Investigate what your university is doing in philanthropy. Find out if there’s a way to give back. Start small—just $50 or $100 at first could make a big difference and help familiarize you with giving back in the future.

Karalyn Watson earned her B.A. in Journalism at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, then her masters degree in 2007 in International Relations at Bilkent University, Ankara. Since then, she has been working for Bilkent in the U.S. as the Alumni Relations and Development Director for their North America branch. There are roughly 1,200 Bilkent alumni spread across the U.S. and Canada. She is in the process of also expanding the program to the United Kingdom.

Visit TPF Website.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Young Photographers Award Exhibition: Nov. 27th in ISTANBUL

Young Photographers Award Exhibition is opening at Fotografevi in Istanbul, Turkey on November 27, 2010. The exhibition will feature the works of Nevzat Yildirim of Kocaeli Univerity, the recipient of the inaugural Young Photographers Award, and sixteen other photographers who participated in the competition. The Young Photographers Award Fund was established as a Donor-Advised Fund at Turkish Philanthropy Funds by Elisa and Haluk Soykan in 2010 to encourage and support undergraduate students of photography at Turkish universities. The award is jointly administered by The American Turkish Society and Moon and Stars Project.

Opening Reception:
Saturday, November 27th - 6:00 pm-7:30 pm
Fotografevi - Istiklal Caddesi, Tutuncu Cikmazi, No: 4
Beyoglu, Istanbul, TURKEY
Tel: +90 (212) 249-0202

Exhibition Dates:
November 27 - December 3, 2010
Monday through Saturday 9:30 am-7:30 pm

Photograph © Nevzat Yıldırım, winner of the 2010 Young Photographers Award
Tired Apprentice, 2010 | from "Producing Liberates"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Giving a Gift and Getting a Return

Published: November 10, 2010 in NYTimes

FOR retirees increasingly worried as interest rates on their savings accounts and money market funds have plunged below 1 percent, an appeal from their alma mater or a respected charity, offering a return of 5 percent or more on a charitable gift annuity, can seem like a rare opportunity.

Is it? Or is there a catch? The answer to both questions is no. But the questions are simplistic.

Better to ask yourself: “Do I want to support the charity?” and “Is a gift annuity a wise choice for me?” If you answer the first one with a yes, then you need to assess your finances and understand what charitable gift annuities are and how they work.

“Some people assume it’s like a bank account,” said Avery E. Neumark, a retirement specialist and partner in the New York accounting firm Rosen Seymour Shapss Martin & Company. “But it’s not. It is just what the name says — a gift. You give away the principal, and you get a guaranteed lifetime income. You can’t compare that with today’s money market rates. The downside is you are locked in.”

The rates, which far exceed today’s annual 1.1 percent inflation rate, might seem low years from now if inflation heats up.

For the choice to be a wise one, Mr. Neumark said, people should generally be nearing retirement and charitably inclined, have liquid assets and other income and have taken care of other needs. “I had one client who did very well,” he said. “He was 90 years old, so the rate was very high, and he lived until he was 103.”

The American Council on Gift Annuities defines the product as a contract under which a charity, in return for a gift of cash or property, agrees to pay a fixed amount over the term of either one or two lives, usually the donors’. Most reputable charities use rates recommended by the council, which vary with the annuitants’ ages and whether there are one or two. Because of the charity, there are tax benefits.

For a single life, the latest rate table called for a 55-year-old to receive 5 percent a year, a 60-year-old 5.2 percent, a 65-year-old 5.5 percent, a 70-year-old 5.8 percent, an 80-year-old 7.2 percent and someone 90 or older 9.5 percent.

Prospective donors can calculate their own rates and tax benefits at the Web site: For a $100,000 gift annuity covering one person aged 65 and another aged 62, the site calculator showed an immediate tax deduction of $12,179.50 and an annual annuity payment of $5,000. Of the latter, $3,326.53 would be tax-free because it represented a return of principal and $1,673.47 would be taxed as ordinary income.

After 26.4 years, their joint life expectancy, all payments would be taxable as ordinary income.

Conrad Teitell, a lawyer in Stamford, Conn., who represents the council and a number of large charities, said donors could donate appreciated assets and avoid immediate payment of capital gains tax. The gain is prorated annually over the donor’s life expectancy, and the taxable portion of the annuity payments is divided into ordinary income and capital gains.

Donors do not have to begin taking annuity payments immediately, he said; they can defer payments for a year or more. That can be a good option for people who are employed and in a high tax bracket, but who expect to retire in a year or so.

Some states require charities to meet criteria, including initial registration, notification and annual filing, to sponsor charitable gift annuities. Others are silent. Many are somewhere in between. Mr. Teitell advised prospective donors to check on their own states at the American Council on Gift Annuities Web site (

If one’s home state does not require charities to meet any criteria, see whether a charity is authorized to offer annuities in a stricter state, and check its financial soundness at the Better Business Bureau ( and Charity Navigator (

A sound approach is not to become involved with a charity that does not meet the standards of a tougher state, because annuity payments are a general obligation of the charity. Though failure to meet the obligation is rare, some charities take out reinsurance, a matter worth discussing with a prospective recipient.

Paul Horrocks, vice president of the New York Life Insurance Company, which sells individual annuity policies and also works with charities on gift annuities, said donors could “accomplish the same thing in two ways,” either through a charitable gift annuity that might pay 5 percent or by dividing the amount into an outright gift to the charity and a commercial annuity that would pay about 7 percent.

Don Greene, national philanthropic product executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, favors charitable gift annuities. They are a way for “lower-end donors” to enter the world of “structured philanthropy,” he said, and “they offer tax advantages and a consistent level of support for a spouse.”

The gift is irrevocable, he added, but a person who is committed to charity, by including a bequest in her will, for example, might want to consider a gift annuity instead and enjoy making the gift during her life.

Please call Turkish Philanthropy Funds at 646.530.8988 if you would like to learn more about Gift Annuities and Other Planned Giving Options or visit our website for more information.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Innovation Philanthropy: Mobilizing Turkey's International Brain Power

Posted by Dr. Banu Onaral

Since 1950’s, Turkey, along with other developing countries focused on educating scientists, engineers and business professionals to spark economic growth and unleash ‘innovation ecosystems’. It was a miscalculation. Turkey created a ‘brain power’ for which its economic system was unprepared. This prompted a ‘brain drain,’ exporting its best and brightest to the West, which offered opportunities to match their skills.

This has been changing in recent years. With an estimated 30 000 to 40 000 of its scholars, scientists, engineers, medical doctors and high ranking professionals and executives living outside its borders, Turkey is starting to realize the power and the importance of its own international ‘brain network.’ Organizations such as Turkish Philanthropy Funds have started to build these networks by building bridges between those abroad and their compatriots at home. They are helping accelerate Turkey's social and economic development through transnational ‘innovation partnerships.’ It is a phenomenon that has come be called ‘innovation philanthropy.’

Also referred to as "philanthropy to build social capital," innovation philanthropy is centered on knowledge, science and technology-based social and economic development. It is founded on mutual respect and understanding gained through shared mission and equal partnership between the philanthropists and the private, public, academic and civil society sectors.

Innovation philanthropists are those who donate professional expertise, contribute strategies, share their experiences and material resources to enable their local counterparts to take charge in science and technology based initiatives. It’s ‘philanthropy through solutions,’ focusing on addressing the unmet needs of a developing society. Innovation philanthropy does not impose, rather partners to identify, to assess, to connect, to leverage the existing resources that may not yet be integrated and fills the gaps.

INOVIZ: Izmir for Health Initiative is an example of innovation philanthropy. Since March 2009, INOVIZ has mobilized human and physical resources in life sciences, biomedical technology and healthcare services so that Izmir, Turkey’s 3rdlargest city, can brand itself as a health center. The initiative has facilitated more than ten meetings, workshops and conferences and culminated in the Global INOVIZ Conference, held on May 24-25, 2010 with regional, national and international participants. Turkish ex-pats are showing interest and Izmir’s goal of becoming a health center is progressing.

INOVIZ demonstrates the importance of platforms. Change cannot happen without space and room to grow. INOVIZ provides that space, convenes the community and builds trust among sectors of the society. The trust deficit is ultimately the most challenging for the developing world. INOVIZ is a regional innovation model that helps turn the country’s ‘brain drain’ into a ‘brain gain.’ Transnational ‘innovation philanthropists’ are currently contributing to similar initiatives in Ankara, Eskisehir, Istanbul as well as other cities, each emerging from the realities of the locality to address their unmet needs as they become part of the innovation economy. This is how ‘innovation ecosystems will ultimately thrive.

Dr. Banu Onaral is H. H. Sun Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA. She holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and BSEE and MSEE in Electrical Engineering from Bogazici University. Dr. Onaral’s translational research efforts for rapid commercialization of biomedical technologies developed Translational Research in Biomedical Technologies program, which brings together academic technology developers with entrepreneurs, regional economic development agencies, as well as local legal, business, and investment communities. Dr. Onaral serves on the Engineering Advisory Board of National Science Foundation's and on the board of trustees of Sabanci University. Read more.

Visit TPF website.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Recent Changes to Turkish Constitution Present Opportunity for Gender Equality Advancement

A majority of Turkish voters recently approved a referendum to amend the Turkish constitution. These accepted changes bring Turkey further in line with EU standards, including equality before the law. The modification regarding gender equality ensures that measures can be implemented that will increase the participation of women in the social, economic, and political spheres. Many women’s groups are now hoping that the government will actually institute such actions.  

The inclusion of women into public spaces is imperative since gender disparities remain high in Turkey. Large numbers of Turkish women are illiterate, many do not participate in the labor force, and their representation in politics is low. While illiteracy rates for women have decreased from 33.9% to 19.6% since the 1990s overall, illiteracy rates continue to be much higher for women in the southeastern part of the country. Women’s labor participation has declined from 34.3% in 1988 to 22% in 2008, in sharp contrast to other countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), while 97.2% of all employers in the country are male. Political representation of women in parliament increased to 9.1% of the total seats in 2007. However, in 2009 only 0.9% of mayors (27 out of 2948) were women. Causes cited for these discrepancies include inadequate education, cultural traditions, childcare issues, limited knowledge of political processes, funding deficiencies, women’s lack of confidence, and a shortage of advancement opportunities.*

Despite these challenges, philanthropic foundations and individual philanthropists can take actions to ensure progress continues to be made regarding the inclusion of women. Fields that need to be supported include the following:
  •  research that advances knowledge regarding gender equality;
  • innovative programs that educate and encourage women;
  • opportunities for the facilitation of linkages between local, national, and international women’s organizations that can provide access to new models, best practices, and serve as support networks;
  • efforts to strengthen funding for women’s initiatives; and
  • policy reform endeavors.

There are many excellent organizations working to support women in a variety of areas in Turkey. Some of my favorites include the following:
  • KAMER Foundation; 
  • Turkish Philanthropy Funds - Gender Equality selections; and
  • Women for Women’s Human Rights - New Ways.
The approval of the referendum presents all of us with the opportunity to renew our efforts on behalf of women. While many women’s groups are calling on the government to put measures into place that will increase the participation of women, each one of us can be a part of the solution now by incorporating the principle of gender inclusion in our businesses, philanthropic efforts, and in the daily choices we make. It is my hope we will all find ways to give meaning to the passage of the gender component of the referendum by fostering positive change on behalf of women each and every day. 

* The statistics and some ideas contained in this section come from Eder, M., (2010). Turkey. In Ellen Lust, The Middle East (pp. 730-760). Washington, DC: CG Press.

Lou Anne King Jensen is a licensed master social worker recognized for independent practice and President of the Chrest Foundation, a private foundation that has been supporting social projects in Turkey since 2001. She also serves as an advisor or board member to a number of philanthropies and non-profit organizations including those related to Turkey, women, diabetes research, and college scholarships for students.    

Visit TPF website.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Creating Opportunities for Youth!

Supporters of  Turkish Philanthropy Funds partners, Toplum Gonulluleri Vakfi- TOG (Community Volunteers Foundation of Turkey) and Sabanci University - SU, will be participating in the 32nd Intercontinental Eurasia Marathon this Sunday, October 17th in Istanbul. Both TOG and SU teams are running for a notable cause: to create opportunities for youth to achieve successful futures.

One of the founders and board member of TOG, Ibrahim Betil, will be running in support of their "Valuing Young People" project while  34 Sabanci University faculty, staff, students and supporters will be running to raise funds for their Scholarship Fund.

To support their efforts through TPF please visit their pages at TPF website. Any contributions you make to these organizations  till October 20th will be relayed directly to the mentioned projects.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

“Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare”

Turkish Philanthropy Funds along with The American Turkish Society presents “Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare” tonight at NYIT Auditorium on Broadway.  

Date: October 6, 2010
Time: 6:00 PM-8:30 PM 
Location: NYIT Auditorium on Broadway
1871 Broadway (Between 61st and 62nd Streets)

Set in Turkey, Voices Unveiled explores the clash of the East and the West through the lives of three Turkish women – an activist, an artist and a dancer – who struggle to find their own voices in a traditional world. Turkish Women Who Dare is not just the story of three brave Turkish women.  It highlights the obstacles and challenges women in Turkey face -- obstacles and challenges that prevent them from reaching their potential -- obstacles and challenges that must be broken down -- that we must break down. These individuals’ struggles for personal empowerment reflect the challenges faced by women worldwide. Through their stories, the film examines such timely issues as societal change and the intersections between secularism, traditional values, and gender equality. 

Women's issues is at the heart of one of the causes TPF addresses. That's why tonight's screening is significant. The goal tonight is not only to raise awareness but also invite you to take action so we can bring women's tenacity, intelligence and creativity to the forefront and encourage them to make profound contributions to our society. Learn more on how you can take action through TPF.

This event is free and open to the public. However, space is limited and RSVP is required. RSVP for tonight's screening here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Making of the Documentary "Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare”

Posted by Binnur Karaevli

Growing up in a progressive family in Istanbul, I was provided with a great education and encouraged to pursue a career by my family.  However, I still felt society’s pressures in how I should behave and act as a woman.  “What would the neighbors think?” is a common worry for a lot of Turkish women no matter how liberated their families might be.  For the privileged, this subtle oppression might be irritating but a larger segment of women’s lives are dictated by the notion of the woman’s purity of reputation and honor.  In many less developed parts of Turkey, “honor” means a woman’s obedience.  “Honor killings,” the practice of murdering women at the hands of their family for transgressions such as extra-marital sex, are still practiced in the impoverished provinces.

As I set out to make the documentary, “Voices Unveiled,” my goal was to discover Turkish women who defied restrictions in the pursuit of their own dreams and thereby convey their stories.  During the filming, I met women from all walks of life but decided to concentrate on the stories of an artist, an activist and a dancer representing a cross section. Belkis (60s), Nur (50s) and Banu (20s), reflected different aspects of my personality. I felt a strong connection to Belkis’ art because her art is rooted in the traditional form of kilim, (Turkish Tapestry) and yet she creates abstract, minimalist and forceful designs that break out of the box and transcend the form. I immediately responded to Nur’s compassionate and diligent efforts on behalf of the less privileged women.  Many taboos concerning “professional dance” still exists in Turkey.  Banu, a champion ballroom dancer, had to fight against her family that did not accept her desire to dance publicly.  She had to continually walk the line between rebelling and reassuring, pressing on while demonstrating that her dancing is a legitimate pursuit. 

As I explored the main problems Turkish women face, I realized that these concerns are not unique to Turkey. Gender inequality, and lack of education, economic freedom, and sexual and bodily rights afflict many women in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the film, Nur, the activist says, "Democracy is impossible without women being empowered." My goal with "Voices Unveiled" is to communicate to the audience the link between democracy and gender rights in the world.

Binnur Karaevli was born and raised in Istanbul and earned her BFA in Drama from Carnegie-Mellon University and her MFA in Film Production from University of Southern California.  Her films received top prizes from numerous film festivals around the world. She is currently working on a narrative feature film about the Ottoman Harem.  She splits her time between Istanbul and Los Angeles. For more information on the documentary, please visit Binnur Karaevli can be reached by emailing

TPF along with the American Turkish Society will be holding a screening of "Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare" on Wednesday, October 6th. RSVP online.

Please also join Binnur Karaevli and @tphilanthropy for a tweetchat on women's sexual and bodily rights on October 5th at 2PM EST/9PM IST by using the hashtag #genderequality.  

Go to TPF's website.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Illiteracy does not just mean the inability to read or write

“As I would board the bus, I would ask the driver shyly whether the bus was headed in the direction I needed to go. Now, I can read the bus route. I can go wherever I want without asking anyone.”- Emine S.

“I couldn’t go to the hospital alone before. Since I couldn’t read, I couldn’t find the department I needed to go to. I was afraid to ask. I would spend so much time looking. Now I can find the hospital departments without asking anyone. I can read the door plates.”-Hamiyet K.

“My greatest wish was to learn phone numbers. When somebody gave me their number I couldn’t write it and I felt miserable. Yesterday I got a phone call. They wanted to talk to my husband. I said he wasn't home and wrote their phone number. I am so happy.” -Muteber B.

As surprising as it may seem, Emine, Hamiyet and Muteber live in Turkey’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, Istanbul. Until they enrolled in the Mother and Child Education Foundation (ACEV)’s Women Empowerment and Functional Literacy Program (FALP), they could not read.

These women are not alone. There are several thousands of women, of all ages, who like Emine migrated to Istanbul, but who are unable to integrate into city life because of illiteracy. Illiteracy does not just mean the inability to read or write. It is a situation that prevents, mainly women, from living a normal life. For the past year, FALP has helped to change that in three disadvantaged districts in Istanbul.

From October 2009, FALP has implemented a literacy program for women in their 30s and 40s in Eyup, Fatih and Kagithane, where there is a high percentage of migrants from southeastern and eastern Turkey. The majority are migrants with only a primary school education for the men and only a few years for the women. In most instances women from these parts of Turkey never even enrolled in a classroom.
With the assistance of three volunteer teachers selected by ACEV’s Functional Literacy Program, 65 women from these Istanbul districts developed basic primary school level reading skills in three months.

FALP aims “for participants to gain skills that would boost women’s status in society and the family, such as using literacy skills in daily life, benefiting form the right to lifelong education as an informed citizen, and understanding the importance of educating female children.” Raising literacy rates in Turkey is one step in the right direction.

As a result of ACEV’s literacy program, there are several dozens of women in Istanbul more confident and able to function independently in their daily lives. Pleased with its results, ACEV plans to offer more advanced courses for these women. It also plans to expand the program to other districts in Istanbul.

ACEV's FALP program is a recent grantee of TPF. Read more on the outcomes of the project here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tweetchat on female education and literacy

We just had a very lively discussion on Twitter on female education and literacy. Thanks to everyone who joined us.
If you missed it, you can read back through it here: 

Visit TPF website.

Monday, September 13, 2010

If a Turkish girl can be President, can she change a tire? Only if she has an education.

Posted by Elmira Bayrasli

My father doesn’t think I should change a tire. I am, after all, a Turkish girl – and Turkish girls don’t change tires. Interestingly, he does think that I should and can be whatever I want to be – President of the United States for example. Hence, why he encouraged me - no scratch that - ordered me to study – a lot. “Education,” he would say, “is the most important thing in the world.”

That is, unfortunately, not the norm in Turkish culture. More than half of Turkish girls do not receive anything beyond the mandatory primary education. Today, only 57.2 percent of Turkish girls are enrolled in secondary school and only 18.7 percent in tertiary – and that is an increase over the past ten years. It is a disturbing gender gap, especially for a country that has aspirations to belong to the European Union. That is why I’m so glad to be involved with the Turkish Philanthropy Funds (TPF).

In name, TPF is a foundation that assists individuals eager to make philanthropic donations to Turkey. They’re an information and due-diligence resource that helps people make knowledgeable choices in charitable giving. Translated, they’re a convener and a community eager to make a positive impact on Turkey, in four specific areas:

  • Gender Equality
  • Arts & Culture
  • Economic Development (entrepreneurship)
  • Education

It’s two of these areas: gender equality and education and the work TPF is doing is why I’ve chosen to volunteer my Wednesday mornings working at their offices.

TPF identifies, evaluates and partners with non-profits that are doing measurable work with significant outputs in these areas. One of the organizations they’ve chosen is the Mother Child Education Foundation (ACEV). It is an organization that works with rural communities to develop early childhood and adult education programs. Among the programs that they support is educating….men.

Fathers, brothers and uncles hold the key to closing Turkey’s gender gap. They must be included in efforts to increase female literacy and school enrollment. That’s what I love about ACEV’s Father Support Program. It works to “address the parenting skills and attitudes of fathers.” ACEV works with the Turkish education ministry and other education professionals to develop programs that encourage men to not only support female education, but to be involved in their daughter’s success. Beyond cool.

It is a program I found out about through TPF, as a result of the resources it makes available to those interested in making a difference in Turkey. TPF has a team that works to identify non-profits working in the four areas of focus I outlined above. More importantly, it works to ensure that those non-profits and the programs they’re implementing are having a significant and measurable impact. TPF is the quality control of Turkish philanthropy.

And quality is something we’re all looking for in every aspect of our lives. Yet somehow we don’t make it a priority when we’re giving. Our charity is, more often than not, driven by guilt as a palliative rather than thoughtful deliberation on what will affect long-term progress. The Turkish Philanthropy Funds has created the platform to help turn giving into something that is part of a community rather than conscience. It is a place to affect real change.

For me changing the lives of Turkish girls by giving them a chance at an education couldn’t be more thrilling. They’re capable of so much. And that capability is something Turkey desperately needs.

Elmira Bayrasli writes and works on economic development issues. She is writing a book Under-Development about her experiences working in government and with entrepreneurs.

Please join her in a Twitter chat to discuss this issue of female education and literacy next Monday, September 20 at 2PM EST/9PM IST using the hashtag #girlseducation.

Visit TPF website.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Guest Writers on TPF Blog

As September fast approaches, we at TPF are gearing up for the new season with some exciting developments.
In the coming months, you'll be able to read about philanthropy and TPF's work on our blog by various guest writers. Leaders in philanthropy, education and civil society will share their thoughts and experiences about giving. Our first guest blogger will be Elmira Bayrasli, Vice President of Policy and Outreach at Endeavor, who has joined our communications team. Her post will appear on September 13th.
To make it easy for you to follow these updates, please subscribe to our blog. In doing so, you will receive an email alert when a new post appears. You can also find recent news and information on TPF's Facebook Fan Page, and on Twitter. Please become a fan or follow us to stay connected!
If you would like to become a guest blogger or recommend a guest blogger, please email us at We are always open to new ideas and suggestions.

Friday, August 6, 2010

TPF seeks an energetic social cause marketing intern!

Turkish Philanthropy Funds (TPF, taps into and unleashes philanthropic giving from the Turkish Diaspora and friends of Turkey. It empowers these groups to take action in four key areas: gender equality, economic development, education and arts & culture. 
We seek an energetic intern who will assist with TPF's social cause marketing.
Founded in 2007, TPF was a group of individuals eager to make a difference for future generations of Turks and Turkish-Americans. In three years it has garned the excitement of a community that is eager to take the organization to the next level. TPF is eager to hire an intern to be a part of the TPF's team as it widens its reach with an outreach and communications program.
Hours are flexible, but will require a focus on keeping on top of current events, both in Turkey as well as the philanthropic giving circle, communicating with like-minded organizations and individuals via social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and assisting TPF's senior management with outreach efforts.
This is a great opportunity for someone eager to own a social media portfolio and help TPF build a presence on Facebook and Twitter.
The intern will work closely with seasoned professionals, who will act as mentors and guides for professional development. It is an opportunity for an intern to widen his/her social network by meeting new people, as well as becoming a social media expert. The internship also gives interns a chance to become acquainted with Turkish non-profit sector, organizations, their people, projects and business models.
Your successfully completed internship should provide you with an excellent portfolio of deliverable projects you can use to demonstrate your social media savvy to potential employers.
  • Social media/social networking, outreach, monitoring, experimenting
  • List management and communications
  • Website updates
  • Research
  • Stats and reporting
  • Growing marketing ideas in the social Web/media arena
  • Strong interest in TPF's mission and vision
  • Commitment to social change
  • Interest in how social media and traditional media work and what is newsworthy
  • Interest in how media and communications strategies advance a public interest agenda.
The intern should be energetic, reliable, detail oriented and organized. Excellent writing skills are required. Experience in social issue organizing, communications, or journalism helpful. Knowledge of Turkish is recommended, but not required.
How to Apply
Please email a tailored cover letter, resume, 1-3 social networking profiles and availability to Senay Ataselim, COO at

Friday, July 2, 2010

TPF at ISTR Conference in Istanbul

Turkish Philanthropy Funds will be organizing a panel on transnational philanthropy and its effects on social development at the ISTR Conference on July 8 from 4:00-5:30 pm at Kadir Has University. Panelists include Lou Anne King Jensen, Dr. Banu Onaral, Haldun Tashman, and Senay Ataselim. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Mark Sidel.

For more information about the conference, visit

More Good News from Caykisla!

The new school built in Caykisla in honor of Esat Egesoy and Bedia Basgoz by the Porcaro Education Fund at TPF had its official opening ceremony on May 24, 2010. The children of Caykisla and their families, as well as many supporters of the school were present to celebrate this day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tweet for TPF!

USA Today will give one charity a full-page, full-color ad valued at nearly $190,000. The competition continues till Friday, April 16th, 11:59 pm (ET).

How can you help?

1. Post a tweet that reads "#AmericaWants Turkish Philanthropy Funds to get a full-page ad in USA Today. Please RT!"

2. Follow @tphilanthropy on Twitter and re-tweet our posts related to USA Today contest.

Please continue spreading the word and encouraging others to tweet.

Thank you for your support of TPF and we hope to see you on Twitter!

Return to TPF website.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society 2010 International Fellows visited TPF!

2010 Emerging Leaders International Fellows of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, Anna, Jennifer, Zeynep, Bernadette and Alexandra visited Turkish Philanthropy Funds to learn about TPF, and discuss civil society and community foundations.

Since its inception twenty years ago, the International Fellows Program has sponsored 142 fellows from 54 countries. TPF's Chief Operating Officer, Senay Ataselim (2005), and TPF's former board member Filiz Bikmen (2006) are among the former fellows.

The three-month Emerging Leaders International Fellows Program provides training to young scholar-practitioners from overseas, as well as from communities of color under-represented in the U.S. grantmaking sector, through applied research, seminars with scholars and practitioners, and professional networking opportunities. This year’s program will focus on community foundations examined through a comparative framework of philanthropic trends and civil society development in a global context.

The Fellows, who are at the Center this year are: Ms. Anna Gulevska-Chernysh from Kiev, Ukraine; Ms. Jennifer Litchfield from Winnipeg, Canada; Ms. Zeynep Meydanoğlu from Istanbul, Turkey; Ms. Bernadette Hellmann from Berlin, Germany; and Ms. Alexandra Nayeli Jiménez Martínez from México City, México.

In addition to writing an original research paper, Fellows will participate in seminars on US and international voluntary-sector activities; learn about the work of key agencies through readings and site visits; meet with leading nonprofit representatives and scholars in the field; and attend workshops relevant to their areas of interest.

TPF is proud to be one of the funders of the 2010 Emerging Leaders Program along with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and The Winnipeg Foundation.

Return back to TPF's website.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Elazig Earthquake

In an effort to provide assistance to the victims of the earthquake in Elazığ, Turkish Philanthropy Funds has reached out to leading nonprofit organizations in Turkey to find the most feasible way to support the disaster relief efforts.

We learned that the center of the earthquake is the district of Başyurt at Karakocan however the most devastated area is the town of Kovancılar. A crisis management desk has been established at the District Governor’s Office in Kovancılar, which collects and distributes the assistance.  About 2,500 people in Kovancılar were affected by the earthquake. The most needed relief products are: baby food, children clothing such as shoes, coats, sweaters, socks, etc., and personal hygiene products.

All relief products can be sent directly to:
Kovancılar Kaymakamlığı
Kriz Merkezi
Tel:        +90-424-611-7679

As Turkish Philanthropy Funds, we won’t be collecting relief products in the US.  If you would like to send money  from the US to support the disaster relief efforts, please call us at 1.646.530.8988.

Visit TPF's website.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Seasonal Migrant Workers Youth Program Successfully Completed!

TPF Grantee Dr. Zeynep Simsek's project "Seasonal Migrant Workers Youth Program" supported through the Sabanci Foundation Grant Program of the UN Joint Program to Promote and Protect Human Rights of Women and Girls has recently been completed. The purpose of the project was to reduce social exclusion of seasonal migrant workers from the rest of society through the training of 25 peer leaders in a five-day workshop. The participants in the training were then asked to relay the information they have learned to at least 25 other peers in their communities so as to create a multiplier effect.
The project was successfully completed and here are some remarks the participants had to say about the program and how it impacted their lives:
"In the morning when I saw the bus that would take us to the training my excitement doubled. I had never entered into a university before. The trainers met us, some of the students were looking around in awe. I asked myself, "What am I doing here?" When I met the trainers, my shyness and anxiety went away with their attention and interaction with us. They gave us so much value that I was beginning to see myself valued as well. Until now I had been a shy person. After this training I have become more sociable. Today is the last day, everything will be different from now on."
"This training has increased my self-confidence. We learned side by side the things men and women need to know. The boys and girls, we got along so well. We spoke about the things we couldn't even tell our doctors. We learned."
"If I had known studying would be this beneficial for me, I would have never dropped out of school. It is never too late to turn back."
"I didn’t know half the things we learned in this training, now I know. 25 people means 25 generations."
"When we first came on the first day all the boys and girls sat apart from each other like we were enemies. How could I have known that mixing up with them would have been a good feeling. Living together like brother and sister is a great thing."
"We didn't get training in this program, we became a family and learned about respect, love and brotherhood. How did all of this happen in five days? On the first day I didn't know anything and I was afraid to speak or hear but now I am telling others. My friends started telling me "Songul, where did you learn all these things! Oh my god!" and I replied "I learned and taught you, now you tell others: for you to be healthy, your environment must be healthy". These days were my best days ever."
"The biggest problem of Sanliurfa is family planning. No one knows about it. My sister has 5 children, all girls. She gets pregnant before she stops breast feeding the newborn so that she can have a boy. It's all ignorance. I wish everyone could go through this kind of training. I understand girls better now."
"We asked my father, why did you have so many children. He said from ignorance, we didn't know what to do and we were embarrassed to ask or talk about it."
"This empty sheet is filled with thousands of girls’ cries for help. When you gave it to me it was clean, and I was sick of everything in life, including myself. When I was little, I wanted to become a teacher but because I was a girl, they allowed only my brother to go to school but he dropped out. I don't want my life to be like my mother's. I expressed my cries for help here, until this day I never told anyone these things before."
"Now I say no to male-female inequality. Man and woman are both humans."
"We learned about our rights in this training. We learned what a man is, what a woman is.We learned enough information to last us a lifetime. I wish the program was not just 5 days but 1 month."
"She was one of the unfortunate women of Southeastern Turkey. In that region, loving someone, running away from home and not listening to your family means death. The things that we live are all ignorance. But we will overcome this ignorance with the help of people like you. The solution is for the tribal system to be gotten rid of. Its not too late for anything."

Read more about the project here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Scholarship Program with Toplum Gonulluleri Vakfi (TOG)

TPF's Scholarship Program with Toplum Gonullueri Vakfi (TOG) was all about giving back and a need to level the playing field.

Nick Porcaro's speech inspired guests and showed that "everyone can be a philanthropist." Nick said:
"Through a friend I met Ibrahim Betil who had built the ENKA School in Adapazari and who offered to introduce me to the Sakarya Governor. After that fateful visit Caykisla never left my focus. However, completion of the funding was still the issue and it was not progressing as planned. I started to think that we should put this project on the shelf until the economic crisis passes or we should aim at a lesser target. Certainly 2008 - 2009 were not the best years to be seeking funds to build a school. But the sparkle my wife Ayse and I saw in the eyes of the children of Caykisla during that visit in July 2008 would not let go nor would the thought of these children spending another ten years in their expired temporary school structure. We needed to make it happen."

Nick & Ayse Porcaro's dedication and commitment show that "DAMLAYA DAMLAYA GOL OLUR." That is the way Caykisla got built. From the student who could only donate $5, a company who gave $130,000 and from all the drops and the cups and the pales in between, slowly a realization happened. And, as of February 8, 2010 first classes took place at the new CAYKISLA School.

Yusuf Guvenc and Burcu Haylaz from Toplum Gonulluleri Vakfi (TOG) showed us all how we must teach the younger generations by word and deed. Rhetoric will not make the changes happen. And, that we must lead by example. Their examples show us that TOG Scholarships have been making a difference in the lives of young people. Watch what scholarship recipients have to say about their experiences.