March 16th 10th Anniversary Reception

DSC02454Speech by Mustafa Kemal Abadan, TPF Chairman & CEO.

Ladies and gentleman, distinguished guests and our special honoree of the evening Sayin Rahmi Koc, good evening.

I am so glad that all of you could join us tonight despite the conspiracy that the weather gods have bestowed upon us. In any case thankfully the storm has passed and even the sun is back out and shining. I sincerely do hope that this is a good omen for TPF and its bright future with you. We are ready to weather any storm ….real and/or imagined.

I am Mustafa Kemal Abadan, Chairman and CEO and a Founding member of the Turkish Philanthropy Funds.  I am privileged to welcome and honor a most generous Turkish philanthropist of our lifetime and a longtime friend and supporter of TPF, Mr. Rahmi Koc. But before I acknowledge Rahmi Bey’s unequaled contribution to Turkey, Turkish society, civil and cultural causes, I would like to take a short detour to connect the dots between TPF and Rahmi Bey. The seeds of an idea that became TPF, and whose 10th anniversary we are here to celebrate began actually in 2005, when Haldun and Nihal Tashman decided to do something extraordinary. They concluded that after completing a very successful business career in the USA they would share their good fortune with the Turkish community in need. But rather than just handing over the funds to various organizations, they choose to be a catalyst for others and make an even bigger impact. With that in mind, Haldun Bey made his rounds and convinced initially 4 others (myself among them) to create the first Turkish Community Foundation in the United States. Our belief, and mission was then and is today to support civil society in Turkey, invest in defined impact areas such as Education, Gender Equality, Social & Economic Development and Disaster Relief.

From the initial 5 founders we grew rapidly to a family of 50 then to 500 and many more have joined our cause since then. Together we have built an organization that is trustworthy, transparent, progressive and most importantly connects donors such as yourself with others in building a community of philanthropists.

In our mind, there is a distinct difference between giving and Philanthropy, whereas giving is simply an act of generosity, Philanthropy is that and much more. It is a moral commitment to see that one’s good deeds have the impact that is desired. That is what distinguishes all of us here, thank you for joining hands with us.

In the past 10 years TPF has raised over 26 million dollars for Philanthropy. We partnered with 56 NGOs in Turkey and supported 107 separate projects in 62 cities. We distributed a total of 15 million dollars in grants to date. In parallel we were able to establish 25 separate Philanthropic Funds under the umbrella of TPF, from where more grants will be made in the future. And with the participation of 16 Founders Society and 8 Legacy Society members we were able to build up an endowment of 3.5 million dollars.

As we go into the next 10 years our goal is to exponentially multiply our impact on the ground and build our endowment to 10 million dollars. My sincere hope is for you to help us broaden the reach of TPF by using your networks, getting the word out about the great deeds that TPF and its philanthropic community is doing, and actively participate in bringing others to our cause to achieve our ambitious goals.

Now let me give you a sense of the great examples of generosity that have taken place in the last decade. There are too many to mention them all here tonight, but at the risk of omitting some. I would like to highlight a few that have stood out.

One of our earliest donors, Nick Pocaro was able to establish a school in his father-in-law’s name in a town where no one had ever been to college.  According to the wishes of Dr. Sevket Turgut Nese, TPF facilitated the sale of a vacation home with the proceeds going to Sabanci University. Haldun Tashman was the visionary behind the creation of Turkey’s first Community Foundation in Bolu. George Schieber created an award in the name of his late wife, Sena to support women from Turkey to attend graduate school in the USA. The scholarship fund was established to encourage young female scholars in the field of economics. A couple channeled their wedding “gifts” into education opportunities for children and made a donation to Darussafaka society. “Young Professionals for TPF” was established to build the next generation of donors. Their efforts have culminated in raising over $100.000 to support low income high school girls. When natural and manmade disasters struck in Van and Soma TPF was there to support survivors with long term relief efforts with pooled funds of over $600.000. Last but certainly not least hundreds of people contributed through the TPF platform to international relief efforts in Somalia, Nepal, and the Japanese earthquake in 2011. Closer to home, funds were channeled to local organizations in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

These and countless more individual and collective efforts of fundraising have made a huge difference in small and large doses. I would encourage you all to browse through our website to discover the diversity of philanthropy under the umbrella of TPF.

Let me now turn my attention back to our Most Distinguished Honoree, Mr. Rahmi Koc. Rahmi Bey was certainly one of the earliest believers in our foundation. Mr. Koc and Ramerica Foundation joined TPF’s Founders Society in 2008 and have generously given to TPF and participated in our outreach to Turkish organizations. With his kindness and generosity TPF has been able to make significant contribution to the lives of many people. While you have so many options in furthering your philanthropy Rahmi Bey, I would like to thank you sincerely for trusting and believing in our organization so early on.

As most of you are aware Mr. Rahmi Koc and Koc Family has set the highest standard of excellence in philanthropy in Turkey, the United States and all around the world. This generous tradition starts with Rahmi Bey’s father, Mr. Vehbi Koc. Vehhi Bey’s strong belief that “I live and prosper with my own country” has been transferred to future generations and is seen by them not only as an essential part of business strategies but also philanthropic contributions.

Established over 48 years ago The Vehbi Koc Foundation is the first private Turkish foundation pioneering in education, health and culture. The foundation institutionalized the world of philanthropy in Turkey and worked for two decades to establish the legal framework paving the way for other businesses to do the same with their social investments. Vehbi Koc foundation has established 17 public schools, a hospital, a university, awarded tens of thousands of scholarships and invested more than $500million most of it in the last decade, in social causes. Their approach to philanthropy has been proactive in a creative way just like their approach in business.

I would like to pause for a minute and in this occasion thank Rahmi Bey and The Vehbi Koc Foundation directors personally for honoring my mother Professor Nermin Abadan-Unat in 2012 with the very prestigious Vehbi Koc Award in Education. Your generosity in this regard was the final catalyst for me in the formation of the Abadan awards in the name of my parents. Now in its 3rd year it is given annually and administered at Koc University. When we talk about giving circles we mean how one action of generosity can spur another and keep it going . So once again Rahmi Bey, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Mr. Rahmi Koc’s contributions to philanthropy was recognized by many distinguished institutions worldwide. In 1997, Suleyman Demirel, the President of the Turkish Republic, bestowed Mr. Rahmi Koc with the “Outstanding Service Award” for his work in the fields of health, education and social services. In addition The Koc Family was honored by:

  •  The World Monuments Fund with the 2007 with the Hadrian Award for their philanthropy and support of museums and research in history, art and culture.
  • In 2010, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, awarded Koç Family with the “Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy,” the most prestigious philanthropy award in the world.
  • In 2011, Rahmi Bey received BNP Paribas Philanthropy Award in Paris.
  • In 2014, Rahmi M. Koç received the “Responsible Capitalism Lifetime Achievement Award” for his significant contributions to Turkish economy and his investment in healthcare, education and cultural programs across Turkey from FIRST, a leading London-based multidisciplinary international affairs organization.

And now in 2017, it is my great honor to present TPF’s first “Philanthropist of the Year Award” to Mr. Rahmi Koc.

I would also briefly acknowledge other Founders Society members who could not be here tonight: Serpil and Yalcin Ayasli, Haluk Soykan, The Attar Family, Nakiye and Ziya Boyacigiller, Assia and Vedat Eyuboglu, Nur and Aziz Hamzaogullari, Aylin Tashman Kim, Sevket Turgut Nese and Erinch Ozada.

I can also not help myself but extend my deep felt thanks to the board of TPF, without whose commitment, passion and dedication we would not have achieved our goals: Mehmet Lütfi Kırdar, Lawrence Kaye, Civan Gökay, Bilge Ögün Bassani, Nakiye Boyacigiller, Ahmet Bozer, Assia Eyüboğlu, Merve Gursel, Nur Hamzaogullari, Özgür Karaosmanoğlu, G. Lincoln McCurdy, Gulden Mesara, Alp Onalan, Maya Ondalıkoğlu Bobbitt. And we could have hardly accomplished our work without the most dedicated staff headed by our first employee Senay Ataselim Yilmaz, in the role of COO, CFO, Goncagul Ay, Deniz Amber Kale and Sandra Escauriaza.

Also tonight would not have been possible without the special efforts of the event committee: Mehmet Kirdar, Merve Gursel, Gulden Mesara, Nur Hamzaogullari, Senay Ataselim Yilmaz and Deniz Amber Kale and our sponsors, Kavaklidere Wines and Turkish Airlines.

In the past 10 years we have been incredible fortunate to have worked with donors large and small. No matter what the size of their contribution was. But you are the inspiration for us to push further. Because of you, we, have committed to give our time, energy to make a difference to the society we have physically left but could not separate our hearts from it.

In a short time we managed to build TPF into the leading US foundation for high-impact social investments for Turkey.  We are proud to provide a flexible platform so that your individual dreams can be realized. Words cannot do justice to fully describe our journey of the past 10 years, as we have truly become an amazing community. A big Thank You for being here and joining us in this most amazingly rewarding journey. On behalf of all of us assembled here, I would like to raise a toast to all of you and TPF’s growth over the next 10 years and beyond!

Serefe / Cheers!

Last Stop, Children’s Village

koruncukby Goncagul Ay, Program Associate.

“I made this painting so when I grow up I can remember my family.” This is a quote by an eleven-year-old Mustafa, who lives in the Bolluca Children’s Village. This village is the first place he calls “home”. All the stories start with an opening line of “once upon a time.” As such, the story of Koruncuk goes back 20 years. It’s a story that provides a family and a home to many children who need a safe haven. Today, the village consist of 10-12 family houses, 1 girls’ and 1 boys’ youth houses as well as a Cultural Center, Kindergarten, Library, Playground and Sports Halls.

Koruncuk Vakfi  (aka Turkish Foundation for Children in Need of Protection) shelters children who are abandoned, abused or neglected.  These children grow up and get education in a healthy family.  The goal is to develop these children’s personal skills and prepare them for future so they can contribute to the society at large.

Children are accepted into the village between the ages of 0-6 years old. Since their inception, Koruncuk Vakfi provided housing to more than 200 children. They are supported from kindergarten until they are independent depending on the dreams of the child whether it is to go to university or get married. Every child is given an opportunity to choose a field they are interested in and supported in developing skills such as artistic, cultural and physical education. They also participate in activities and celebrations and take field trips to expand their horizons.

During my visit to Koruncuk Foundation’s office in Mecidiyekoy, Istanbul, their mission and work echoed in my ears throughout our conversation with the staff.  I could sense what they gave to these children was more than just a roof over their head but it was a one big family. I knew then that for Koruncuk Foundation, this was more than helping a child, it was providing them with every possible opportunity they can get every step of the way to make sure they reach their potential. When I entered Koruncuk’s office, I overheard a conversation between staff members, “we should encourage her to continue studying and graduate.  She has one semester left.  I will speak to her and make sure she graduates  so she can have a better life. She can get married after she graduates.” This was the type of care, patience and love they put into their work. I later learned that if any of the children move out of the village, Koruncuk does regular follow-ups with each child to make sure they reach their fullest potential and all of their needs are met.

The staff members are called “mothers” and “fathers”. They are the ones that make sure these children receive the best experience possible. Koruncuk Foundation works with experienced staff, social services experts and pedagogies to provide support to children personally, academically and emotionally.

For future, the Foundation’s goal is to implement 5 more children’s villages in provinces where they are mostly needed in Turkey and to help as many children as possible who need protection. After Bolluca Children’s Village’s success rate, they are convinced that setting up villages where they are needed will help more children.  Bolluca Children’s Village is an exemplary facility.  Next is Urla. To support their efforts, take a look at their project.

The Mentee Becomes the Mentor.

Now at her late 20s and a role model herself, Sara became an inspiration to her own mentor, Secil, because of her self-determination to win in life against all odds. Secil, a Bogazici University graduate, started her career as an editor at Cosmopolitan magazine. She spent over 20 years in corporate communications where her career blossomed. Today, she leads a communications consultancy agency she co-founded. She also volunteers as a mentor for KAGIDER’s Women Leaders of the Future program. Secil’s role model has always been her grandmother, one of the few women who dared to work in 1920s of Turkey. Until few years ago, her grandmother was her source of inspiration and encouragement to take the next step in life. But that changed when she had met someone, a young woman who went beyond and above when she was provided with the opportunity: Sara.

Sara is the youngest of five daughters of a father who always wanted a son. It was only when her oldest gave birth to a boy that her father was happy. Like many of her peers, Sara was expected to live a certain way of life; help her mother around the house, learn cooking and cleaning, get married when she was of age and live happily ever after. However, Sara had other plans for herself. She wanted to go to college and have a career. Determined to change the lifestyle imposed on her, she studied really hard in high school and got into Bogazici University, one of the top three universities in Turkey.

Sara was nervous more than excited with this news because now, it was time to convince her father to let her go to college. And that was more difficult for Sara than getting into a top school. Sara’s father regarded college education unnecessary for girls, and even shameful. Even Sara’s acceptance from Bogazici University was enough to make his friends and colleagues to make fun of him and the way he raised his daughter. In addition, he was reluctant to send Sara to Istanbul, to a city he had never been before. But Sara was determined to challenge the perceptions towards women in Turkey and was ready to to fight for it.

With the support of her mother and older sisters, Sara’s father was convinced to visit Bogazici University’s campus. So their family of ten took the 30 hour long bus trip from Van to Istanbul. Impressed by the campus and tired of the nonstop arguments from his wife and daughters, Sara’s father finally agreed to let her go to college. Sara knew that this was her only chance to equip herself with the necessary tools to succeed in life as a woman. She didn’t waste any time to participate in professional, technology and language workshops to reach her fullest potential. That’s when she had met with “Women Leaders of the Future”, and her mentor, Secil.

Secil joined the Women Leaders of the Future program to encourage young women that nothing is beyond their reach. But after meeting Sara, she had found herself on the other side, inspired by one of them. Sara is only one out 500 young women who participated in this project. In only four days, she gained new professional skills to succeed at a job interview. But most importantly, when her mentor discovered her top-notch people skills, she recommended her to work in Human Resources, Sara decided to move forward in her career as she directed. She is now working as the Head of Human Resources in one of the largest corporations in Turkey. And, Sara’s father is so proud of her that he is advising all his friends to send their daughters to college.

Only 27 percent of women participate in the workforce in Turkey. KAGIDER works diligently to change this ratio. They encourage young women to accomplish things they didn’t think they could, or never would have even tried. Take a look at their projects and join their efforts of empowering young women and encouraging their entrepreneurship spirits.

The 30ieth Time’s the Charm

tpf colorfulA Colorful Story by Amber Deniz Kale
It was my 30th interview. After studying art in college and media in grad school, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in life. So instead of focusing on finding a job, any job, like most of my peers did, I decided to take some time off hoping to find what makes me happy the most. For almost two years, I did my best to work in various fields that I had interest in. I tried publishing, events management, art galleries… I even worked as a baker for a year just because I had sweet tooth and I liked to spend time in the kitchen. But none of these had me jumping out of bed with excitement. Right when I was about to give up on my ‘dream job’ and settle for a position in an art gallery, I came cross the Turkish Philanthropy Funds – a community foundation with a particular focus on Turkey.

On the day of my interview, I showed up 45 minutes early. As I waited outside the building, I did my best to calm down and not get my hopes up. I was 19 years old when I left Turkey to study abroad. My first stop was Paris for college and then, New York for my masters. As the years passed by, I always found a reason to stay here but that didn’t change the fact that I deeply missed Turkey. Yes, I had made New York my home but Turkey was still a big part of my life.

Turkey wasn’t the only draw to TPF. The organization did a lot of work on gender equality. As a woman born and raised in Turkey, I’ve experienced gender based discrimination and harassment. I was only 15 years old when my mother gave me a pepper spray so that I can protect myself as I went to my high school. No need to say that my little brother never needed any protection when he went out. Even though the fact that I had to carry a pepper spray with me bothered me, I considered myself lucky. There were thousands of women all over Turkey who didn’t have the same privileges and suffered from severe violence. As I had enough of reading such incidents in the newspapers every single day, I decided to do something. I dedicated my graduate thesis to women who experienced violence at one point in their lives, interviewed them and made a short documentary telling their stories hoping to raise an awareness on the issue.

As I met with the small but efficient team of TPF, I realized that I had finally found where I belonged. TPF’s Program Associate whom I met on the phone, greeted me with a big smile when I entered their office. As I followed her to the meeting room, I was introduced to the other team members, TPF’s CEO and COO. As soon as we sat down, they started to talk about the organization and their work in Turkey, how they granted over $15m to their partner organizations on the ground only in 8 years. While I was waiting to be asked where I see myself in the next five years, I found myself asking about the details of their projects. When all team members excitedly started to talk at the same time to tell me about different projects, it dawned on me that at the end of the day nothing mattered more to them than the fact that they were able to make a difference in the lives of many in Turkey. As I listened how they empowered the victims of the mine explosion in Soma or provided scholarships to underprivileged children, I could tell that they were a part of TPF not just because they needed a job, but because they truly believed in its mission. And that was enough for me to cross my fingers to get a call back.

When I was offered with the position, I was over the moon. I’ve been here for a year and a half and since my first day, I’ve been mesmerized by the amazing community that I found myself in. A 5-year old who donated her books to her peers in need, a couple who gave up on their birthdays to gift education, a son-in-law who established a scholarship fund to honor his mother-in-law, an architect who started a Giving Circle to provide relief to Syrian refugees, an IT professional who introduced TPF to his company’s matching gift program, a Board Member who ran to raise funds for his home county, a couple who sold their home to give back to Turkey…There is so much to tell about this generous community that I can turn this piece into a book. I’ve met hundreds of people from various backgrounds, with different motivations to make a change in Turkey since my first day. And what’s more amazing is that this community of change makers is growing every single day.

As we celebrate TPF’s 10th anniversary this month, there are no words to describe my gratitude to everyone who is a part of this big family. You are the reason that I’m excited to go to work every single day. You are the core of TPF, our source of energy to take the next step. Whether you are a donor, a supporter or a partner organization, you enable us to make a change overseas and touch someone’s life. Thank you for being with us along this journey. To many more 10 years!

Happy Birthday Ezgi!

DogumgunuHere is another birthday and another generous individual who asked nothing but donations from her family and friends to make an impact in Turkey. Melody Ezgi Gulcan used her birthday past Fall to raise money for educational opportunities. With matching gifts from her employer, Ezgi’s birthday wish turned into a reality as she raised enough to support both Nesin Mathematics Village and Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi.

Why did you decide to give up your birthday?

In the last years, I realized the thing that makes me happy the most is to share and to make little things better.

Why did you pick education to make an impact?

Education is my top priority, especially women’s and girls’ education. I am a math person and I do follow Nesin Mathematics Village closely. That’s why I chose these two organizations and I’m confident that the money is going to make a difference in the lives of many children.

Why did you choose TPF to realize this project?

TPF is the organization that connects nonprofits in Turkey to donors in the United States through a very rigorous vetting process.

What was your birthday wish this year?

To be able raise some money for the two organizations I chose.

What’s your favorite birthday cake?

A friend of mine made a mosaic cake for all my guests this year and it was delicious! I also love chocolate cake.

What was the best birthday gift you ever received?

One friend donated a significant amount to Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi. That was the best one so far!