Growing with New Leadership.

memo kirdarWe are delighted to announce Mehmet Kirdar as the new Chairman of Turkish Philanthropy Funds. Mr. Kirdar takes over from Mustafa Kemal Abadan, who served as our chairman since 2014 and oversaw the growth of TPF’s impact both in the States and abroad. As he passes the torch to a new leadership, we are grateful that he will continue to contribute his vision and experience to TPF as a Trustee.

“As the outgoing Chairman of TPF, I am thrilled to hand my duties to our vice-chair, Mehmet Kirdar. As we leave our tenth anniversary behind and enter into our second decade with renewed determination to grow TPF, Mehmet will be taking the helm of the organization with great levels of insight, proven leadership and of course the enthusiastic support of the entire TPF board. I wish Mehmet and TPF much success.” said Mustafa Kemal Abadan.

Mehmet Kirdar joined TPF family a long time ago. Since then, he has not only been an excellent ambassador for TPF, but a committed voice to raise awareness of TPF’s impact areas and mission. Since 2014, he has been dedicated to adding his expertise and knowledge as the Vice-Chairman of the organization.

“I have no doubt that Mehmet will bring many talents and energy to this position. I have confidence that under his leadership, TPF will continue its growth and development towards the execution of its mission. It is always exciting to have new leadership, energy, and ideas as we remain the same in our core values. I wish him success at this exciting role!” said Chairman Emeritus, Haldun Tashman as he welcomed Mehmet Kirdar to his new role.

Watch Mehmet Kirdar’s take on as the incoming Chairman of TPF

Our Forever Growing Family.

colorful aylin tashman kimA Colorful Story by Aylin Tashman Kim

As a first-generation American born and raised in Arizona, I always longed for my extended family and waited for summer when I would travel to Istanbul to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I envied my school friends who grew up close to their relatives and shared weekends and vacations with them. In my late teens, our small family of four slowly started to transform into a more dynamic and bigger one than I could have ever wished for. Through my parent’s involvement with philanthropy we found ourselves in a loving community that has continued to grow over the past 15 years.

My grandmother, Zehra Tashman, whose name I proudly carry as my middle name, was the pioneer in our family. She wasn’t allowed to go to school after 5th grade. Her older brother who was the head of their house believed that it was inappropriate for girls to go to school. Even though she was forced to spend her days at home and help with cooking and cleaning, she never let go of her passion to learn. She would read anything she could get her hands on, and she was the main reason why all novels and magazines in their house wore off. She would try to learn a new skill in every opportunity she got. Today, she is celebrating her 99th birthday and still our source of inspiration with her determination and endless energy.

When my father, Haldun Tashman and his brother were born, my grandparents were struggling financially. They owned a small shop on the main street of Bolu yet they couldn’t even afford to have any employees. My Babaanne had the foresight to believe that education was going to be her children’s path to financial freedom and success—a vision she was willing to sacrifice her own lifestyle for. My father was only five years old when he started to help my grandfather at his shop. After school, he would take his place at the back of the counter and work as a cashier. That’s where he learned the key elements of business, the value of money and fundamentals of entrepreneurship at a very young age. It was out of question for my father and his brother to quit school and help their father full-time because of my grandmother. She insisted that education should always be their priority. Through her tremendous influence, the importance of education was imprinted on my father, and he worked very hard to excel at school.

His efforts were recognized and rewarded with scholarships. He graduated from Tarsus American College and then Robert College with top marks in almost every subject. Upon his graduation from Boğaziçi University, Dad got the most amazing news – he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Columbia Business School in New York City. Wide-eyed, he packed his luggage and came to the United States. It wasn’t easy for his family to see him leave but they knew it was the gateway that could change his life forever.

That’s when the new chapter of his life began. Beyond grateful for this opportunity, my father really focused on making the most of it. Upon graduation from Columbia, he dived straight into the corporate world and joined Deloitte in New York City. Ten years later, combining his experiences from the small town- small shop as a child with those from the big city-big corporation, he developed a clearer vision for his career and saw great potential for growth at a small plastics manufacturing company in Phoenix, Arizona. Within a few years, he was made partner and the CFO. Life in Phoenix also brought him the most important person in his life, my mother, Nihal, who came to Phoenix to visit her sister.

As a young child, I remember my father often working late and even spending his time at home behind books finishing a work project. However, he always managed to find time to spend with us. No matter how we shared our time, his conversations with us always focused on strong family values, hard work ethic and the importance of education–the very same drivers behind his journey from Turkey to the US!

My father has always been immensely grateful for the opportunity to study business administration at Columbia University as it changed his life. If he stayed in Turkey, he would probably take over my grandfather’s shop and make sure that it was sustainable. But today, he is in a completely different place because of the chances he was offered in the U.S. Thankful for every moment of this journey, he was determined to create that very same opportunity for others. Looking for a vehicle to realize this dream, my mother and father decided to use their local community foundation and established a donor advised fund at Arizona Community Foundation (ACF) to provide scholarships at his alma matter for MBA students from Turkey. With each promising student they supported, our family started to grow. It has become a tradition to host a dinner at our home with these scholarship recipients not only to welcome them into our family, but also so that my parents could engage, support, and inspire these talented young men and women. My parents took the time to get to know each Tashman Family Scholar, discovering their passions and strengths and guiding them just as they did their own children.

However, providing equal opportunities in education didn’t fully satisfy my mother and father. Once they saw the impact of their philanthropy and the fulfillment it brought to them, my parents wanted to do more. As their involvement grew deeper at ACF, they began to understand how the unique structure of a community foundation could benefit Turkey. As a result, they decided to establish the first community foundation in the U.S. with a focus on Turkey. Encouraged and motivated by my mother, my father rolled up his sleeves, conducted a feasibility study and began to reach out to other Turkish Americans who might be interested giving back to their home country. Eagerly, four others joined them and in 2007, Turkish Philanthropy Funds was launched, appropriately headquartered in NYC.

Within months, my parents found themselves surrounded by hundreds of like-minded inspirational philanthropists. And, my sister and I found ourselves in a family greater than any we dreamed of as kids. Nothing makes us happier as a family than to meet with others who share our passion for giving back to Turkey. It has been a journey full of wonder to start out as a handful of people and now be surrounded by a teeming network of exceptionally kind and generous young professionals, students, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. Determined to do our best to contribute to our growing family, my husband Louis and I joined the Founders Society as one of the first members, established a donor advised fund at TPF through which we have supported various educational initiatives, and continue to support TPF’s endowment so the foundation can be self-sustainable. Our journey in philanthropy is just the beginning, but we are indebted to Haldun and Nihal Tashman for leading the way. Here is to our forever growing family!

Learn More About Founders Society

The Chance to Reach Your Dreams

Emrah made a wish on his 9th birthday unlike any other. Instead of a new toy car or a day at the amusement park, he wished to go to high school. He was raised in a village and never imaged being anything but a shepherd. Yet, he dreamt of getting that high school diploma. He wasn’t sure how he would manage schoolwork as he worked part time to support his family. However, he was curious. He was hardworking and passionate.

Few months later, his birthday wish came true when his path crossed with TOCEV. Believing that every child has a right to education, TOCEV took Emrah under its wings and made sure he focuses on his studies. All his life, Emrah thought his future lied in his village with many barriers that were preventing him from completing his education. Nonetheless, he found himself surrounded by new possibilities that encouraged him to fight for his ambition of becoming everything he knows that he can be — no matter the obstacles or risk. Today, he is a third year dentistry student excited to live a life that he has never dared to dream.

Emrah is not the only one. Omer, Yasemin, Mehmet, Zeynep, Sabiha are among the 5 million children whose lives have changed through TOCEV. Wherever you go around Turkey, you will find many young boys and girls with big dreams because they know the only way for them is forward. TOCEV shelters and supports these dreams, and help those millions of tiny flames become a sun that lights the sky.  Give Education

Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy

By Elmira Bayrasli

After just a glance at the flyer marketing the abandoned yogurt factory in South Edmeston, New York in 2005, Hamdi Ulukaya tossed it. Still, the next day he found himself making plans to tour the factory. The Turkish born entrepreneur had already turned one upstate New York facility into a feta cheese production center three years earlier.

None of this had been in Hamdi’s plans. He had left Turkey in 1994 for the United States to improve his English and earn a business degree. Getting into the food business was the last thing on his mind.

Yet when he did put his mind to it, he gave it his all. That is what he told a crowd gathered at Nasdaq on May 31. Hamdi kicked off Turkish Philanthropy Fund’s inaugural innovation summit.

Philanthropy and innovation may seem far apart at first. After all what does charity have to do with startups? A lot. Both are focused on progress, which was the key takeaway from this one-day event.

TPF brought together Turkey’s best and brightest entrepreneurial minds. In addition to Hamdi Ulukaya and Muhtar Kent, the organization hosted a panel with Sina Afra, Magdalena Yesil, Selcuk Sirin, Aysegul Ildeniz, Murat Emirdag – moderated by CNN Turk’s Cuneyt Ozdemir.

Now, I’ve been to thousands of panels about startups and an equal number of discussions on Turkey. All try to spin a positive “feel-good” story. This is what set the TPF Innovation Summit apart. Cuneyt Ozdemir opened with a sobering look at the challenges in today’s Turkey, including those faced by journalists and entrepreneurs alike. Likewise, NYU Professor Selcuk Sirin spoke about the importance of a wide variety of factors in nurturing an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“If you want to improve innovation in any country, focus on education, critical thinking, and good governance,” Professor Sirin noted.

This was most definitely a summit that dug in and went after clear take-aways rather than paying lip service. Every country today is focused on entrepreneurship and innovation. Turkey has come far on both, but still has a long way to go. One thing that was clear from TPF’s event was, time is ticking. If Turkey wants to continue to see its startup landscape succeed, it needs to think beyond the bottom line. Entrepreneurship is not merely about profit. It’s about problem solving.

Solving problems never happens in one moment. It is a process that involves many minds. The community that came together on May 31 made it clear that while there is a lot to be concerned about Turkey, there is also a lot to be hopeful for. Turks are focused on the future. And the community that TPF has built is focused on making that future a bright one.

The Only Limit is You

unnamed 1.37.07 PMZeynep and Buse walked quietly into Impact Hub Istanbul surrounded by 23 other Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi scholarship recipients and volunteers as their friend, Gaye asked, “Why the theme: ‘The Only Limit is You?’”

Derin jumped in, “because we should not take no for an answer, believe in ourselves and work hard.”

“But, I feel I have many obstacles in life and personally I do not believe I have any power on anything I do,” continued Gaye.

These girls certainly have dreams, and places they’d want to go. However, because of social and cultural barriers, sometimes they feel powerless. As they gathered to attend a panel for TPF Stars, a TPF program supporting high school students with scholarships, many of them with same doubts started talking to speakers shyly as they look for answers in the way these successful women act and speak. The panel featuring Julide Ates, Nakiye Boyacigiller, Itir Erthart, Didem Altop, Melek Pulatkonak and Gizem Moral didn’t give them the easy answer right away. They didn’t note that in 2017, even though it’s still true that no country has given women equal rights and equal opportunities — to education, to health care, to equal pay for equal work — to men, they should still feel powerful because they have it in themselves.

Yet they shared the challenges they faced. Combined voices of these successful women, telling their personal stories of what it was like to be a woman as they progress in their professional careers carried so much power. They told these girls not to second-guess themselves in anything they do. “Sometimes we did,” they noted. “But we learned the hard way that when we don’t, we can overcome many difficulties.” They advised them to go for what truly lies in their hearts despite unsupportive people around them. They encouraged them to challenge themselves with the “if she can, so I can!” attitude. And, they guided them to stand still and ignore critics in a “man’s world” even though it is the most difficult part of their jobs.

These great role models inspired and gave vision to tens of girls last week. As they were open with their own experiences on how they gained the courage to reach for more opportunities, to sit at more tables, and to believe more in themselves, young TPF stars were able to relate. This enabled the conversation to turn into a dialogue between women who is more experienced and young women who felt that their feelings are understood.

25 young women left their self-doubt at Impact Hub Istanbul that day. They were not the quiet and shy girls that walked in a few hours earlier. With their gift bags on their shoulders filled with Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In they stepped out to face the world claiming their own power by acknowledging their inner barriers.


TPF Stars is a program created by TPF in cooperation with Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi in 2014. Currently, the program supports 40 female high school students. Consider making a contribution so we can touch the lives of many more girls.