Teachers of Darussafaka

Your support to Darussafaka Society provides hundreds of disadvantaged children quality education thus a chance to excel in life. Meet Samuel Atchley, one of Darussafaka Society’s English teachers to learn how it feels like to be with those children.

content_ART_6085_500Mr. Samuel Atchley works at Darüşşafaka as an English teacher. This year he teaches 10th and 11th grades. Originally from San Francisco, USA, he has been living in Turkey for the last 5 years. He is married to a Turkish woman, Burcu Atchley and has a 9-month-old daughter.

What brought him to Turkey initially 8 years ago was his passion for Turkish music. “I really like Turkish music. For a long time in my youth, I played clarinet and studied Turkish folk music. I came to Turkey back and forth. Then I met my wife. We played in a band together. We fell in love. And five years ago, I came back to Turkey to make my life and build a family here.”

Mr. Atchley has been working as a teacher for 12 years. He says he found himself in teaching. “At my first teaching job, I really enjoyed informing people and the interaction with my students. And then as I got into high school I started teaching younger students. It became more difficult but at the same time more fulfilling. And now I love my job! It is a great feeling” he says.

“I am doing something that means something”

Three years ago, he began teaching at Darüşşafaka and he tells why teaching here means a lot to him: “The student profile in Darüşşafaka is so much different than any other school. They are kids with less opportunities coming from all over Turkey. They are not spoiled or entitled. They don’t have an expectation that I owe something to them. They are much more motivated to be here. There is a more natural and healthier student-teacher relationship. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to come here in the first place. And the fact that we can help these students that would otherwise not have opportunities, is really worthwhile. Regardless of any challenges that I run into, this is the remedy. I am doing something that means something. It is just being part of the ability of really making a difference in a student’s life. That is the best thing about working here. When you tell people that you work for Darüşşafaka, you get great reactions. And I have great colleagues.”

Especially the support system that Darüşşafaka offers to its students amazes him: “Darüşşafaka is another family and a support structure for the students. Alongside the brotherhood and sisterhood that they have together, the community of Darüşşafaka alumni is really a great support system. I think the kids really notice and appreciate that.”

“These students are getting more than help”

According to Mr. Atchley, Darüşşafaka is unique in the way that it gives such a complete support to its students. He says he does not know any other institution that does this in such a good level. “That is such a rarity” he argues, “A lot of charity institutions offer possibly partial scholarships, partial assistance, or help you. These students are getting more than help. They are getting fully supported opportunity. And doors blast wide open for them, that would otherwise just be completely locked. There are around 100 students who graduate from here every year, whose lives are completely changed. That is amazing.”

And according to him, this is exactly what Turkey needs. “In my opinion, the geographical location of Turkey puts us at the center of the world. So the better educated Turkey is, more powerful and open-minded Turkey becomes, the better position it will be in to not only benefit its people but to influence in a better way the surrounding countries, and the world. Turkey should be so much more influential than it is now. And schools like Darüşşafaka will help us finally broaden the horizons of Turkey as a whole. The importance of Darüşşafaka is, taking the have nots and making them haves. Giving them the education, the knowledge and the opportunity to use their brains.”

He tells the story of one of his students to describe the change Darüşşafaka creates in its students’ lives. “This is a story that I tell often. Without mentioning any names, I know that we have a few ladies from the same family in the school who had some really hard times in the past. And when they first came to school, their Turkish wasn’t even very good. Now some of these students are in my high school classes and they are my rockstar students. Their English is great. I started teaching them in 9th grade and I remember, right after my first exam, one of them was almost in tears. She just did not have the confidence so I sat down and talked to her. And now she is my hero. Because her English is fantastic. Her Turkish is fantastic. She has got a great mind. She will debate with me, she will ask intelligent questions and have an intelligent conversation. If it wasn’t for Darüşşafaka, where would this young lady be now? But instead of that, this brilliant young lady who has really got a very good mind, is set up to go into a profession where she is actually going to give something to the world. And hey, I get to be part of that change! So that is the best memory I have. Darüşşafaka is great because of that. Moreover, students bring change and contribute to their families and where they come from. It is a gift to the student, to where the student comes from, and ultimately to Turkey and the whole world.” He adds happily, “This is a great institution and I am proud to work here. I wear my Darüşşafaka jacket proudly.”

Mr. Atchley loves Turkish culture and is happy to live here. “I think Turkey is a fascinating country. Culturally, historically and geographically Turkey is a phenomenal place. I love the music, food, hospitality, Turkish coastline. Turkey as a whole, has the human resources, natural resources and geographical location to be a powerhouse. I fully believe that this potential can be realized” he says and he is actually making a valuable contribution to the efforts to make it happen. Mr. Atchley speaks Turkish quite well and he ends our conversation by smiling and saying, “That’s what makes it exciting to live here. I hope to retire here, live out my life here. Türkleşiyorum yavaş yavaş.”

Discover Darussafaka Society’s projects.

Make a Wish!

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Why did you decide to give up your birthday?

Birthdays are about sharing, giving and receiving happiness, love and joy. In October 2015, I was planning to organize a Halloween Birthday Party with my family and friends. About two weeks before my birthday, we were all shaken by the bombing in my hometown, Ankara, as the deadliest terrorist attack in modern Turkish History. Like many people, I was devastated and deeply saddened. I felt powerless from thousands of miles away. I am a very positive person and don’t like the feeling of being incapable. I wanted to transform that negative energy to something positive. One of my guiding principles is a quote from Benjamin Franklin  “Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.” I wanted to light a candle by helping people in need and making a difference in their lives. I decided to cancel my birthday party and encouraged my friends to make donations instead of buying me birthday gifts. Actually, I’m not giving up my birthdays; I’m giving back to people who are more in need of some ordinary things that we are privileged to have.

Why did you pick education to make an impact?

I believe importance of education increased with globalization. We are experiencing interesting times globally. People are being manipulated by authoritarian leaders. I believe EDUCATION is the only and long term solution to develop free minded, democratic, independent future generations. I strongly believe that especially education of women is important. I strongly support the belief “EDUCATE A GIRL, EDUCATE A SOCIETY”. Not only women raise kids and have larger impact in societies but also there are not any women who started a war. We all want to have a prosperous future for our country. What we invest now will pay back later with more educated communities, democratic generations, brighter future and better world.

Why did you choose TPF to realize this project?

TPF has been a very reliable non-profit organization with dedicated staff and volunteers. What they have done so far is the warranty for what they will do in the future. I trust their leaders, support their causes and contribute to their goals. It’s so sad to hear that one third of the Turkish population aged between 15-29 years old are out of school or jobless.  It’s not necessarily their fault to be in that situation. These people are our future. We are all on the same boat. If the boat sinks, we will all sink together. There are millions of underprivileged kids who want to study or college graduates who want to work but they don’t have the opportunities to do so. TPF is doing a great job in reaching out to the people in need and establishing a bridge between them and us – people who want to give. I like and value their story, common values, vision, mission and transparency. I appreciate the dedication and commitment of TPF leaders and volunteers.

What was your birthday wish this year?

Himmm, that I don’t remember. Probably I had couple of wishes so at least one of them might have come through

What’s your favorite birthday cake?

Couple of years ago, I set a personal goal to visit as many countries as my age by the time I die. I love visiting different countries and experiencing different cultures. My best friends know how to surprise me. I take pictures jumping in front of well-known monuments everywhere I go. My best friend, Taylan designed a birthday cake for me collaging these pictures. I truly loved it as it was truly a hard work finding all those pictures and it reminded me all the beautiful places that I had been. I provide a picture here.

What was the best birthday gift you ever received?

I received great birthday gifts over years. I’m fortunate enough to have a great family and friends who like to give and make me happy. I had many birthday gifts in the past which certainly gave me some instant gratifications. However, to be honest, the most meaningful ones are the ones when my friends, embracing my values, generously contributed to the causes I picked. In 2015 we raised $2,140 and provided scholarship to three female university students in Turkey. In 2016 we raised $4,610 to support “Invest in the Future of Turkey” program. These gifts not only inspired my friends and will continue to inspire many others in years ahead, but also they will sustain longer and make a meaningful impact in people’s lives. I encourage everyone to give back. If you want to have a precious birthday gift that will grow over years and change lives then join me in raising funds to give back on your birthdays.

Empowering Youth Since 2002

orta görsel.-2-Few years ago, a group of teenagers did something remarkable, something many of us never bothered or considered before. They tried to imagine the difficult conditions of young people in juvenile detention centers. They pictured themselves growing behind the bars and tried to comprehend spending years in an enclosed space. They understood that finding a totally different world after being released was not easy. That group of teenagers was none other than TOG (Community Volunteers Foundation) volunteers. They realize that for some youth, adolescence presents challenges beyond the ones they face, and these evolve from the social and economic conditions they live in. That’s when the idea came to them, they were going to tear down the walls between imprisoned children and the society. Their method was simple yet effective – through visits. They set to work immediately. They started to visit juvenile detention centers and organized drama, music, drawing and literature workshops with the incarcerated youth. These young people were spending their time behind bars, when others are finishing college, accumulating job experience and transitioning to responsible adulthood. The goal of the program became empowering these young people so they can discover their talents and look positively to meaningful opportunities they’ll come across in life. The program started ten years ago. As TOG volunteers were inspired by the notion that we all look at the same sky, they named the project: Looking at the Same Sky. Since beginning, TOG volunteers reached over 1,500 imprisoned children in many cities all over Turkey, helped them ease their way to a normal life.

Looking at the Same Sky project came to life through the simple yet effective structure of TOG. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, TOG provides various empowerment opportunities to young individuals. Their most impactful project is the TOG Mentoring project, which matches young individuals who struggle economically and socially with adult volunteers based on their interests and needs. The mentor guides the mentee getting her ready for professional life. Part of the program is to encourage TOG volunteers to contribute to our society by creating and actively participating in social responsibility projects. Looking at the Same Sky project is an outcome. Take a look at TOG’s projects and join us in empowering youth in Turkey.

Color Ride

shutterstock_152218745Ride and Change.
We are riding again! Grab your wheels and meet us at Central Park on June 4th @9AM.

Color Ride is more than just cycling. It’s about getting together with other change makers and sharing our passion of empowering communities. We mobilize, raise awareness and cherish our impact as we ride nine miles along Hudson River Park Bikeway. Nothing beats having brunch after a long ride, so that’s what we’ll do at Pera Soho.

When: Sunday, June 4th, 2017 from 9:00AM -1:00PM (EST) .
Ride starts 9AM sharp and ends at Pera Soho by 11AM.
Where: Maine Monument, Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park

Can’t wait to ride with you!

REGISTER

We expect all registered riders to go beyond and above! In addition to registering for the ride, we invite you to start your fundraiser. The funds you raise are allocated towards furthering TPF’s mission, so set your goals high – you never know what you can achieve!

All donations will be matched 100% doubling your impact!

Çaykışla Diary

nick with kids A Colorful Story by Nick Porcaro

Nearing retirement, I had for a number of years felt the need to give back for the opportunities I have had. In 2007 a Special-Needs High School in Massachusetts had been trying to expand their campus without success due to design and budget constraints. I offered to donate my services and after several months of rework the groundbreaking got underway. This experience pointed my thoughts of giving back toward education, then my questions became what to give, where and how?

In 1965, I was awarded one year Fulbright Scholarship for senior study at METU (Middle Eastern Technical University)’s School of Architecture. That year I had many wonderful experiences and made many wonderful friends, least of which was Ayşe, my loving wife of 50 years. A few years later by invitation I returned to METU as an architectural design instructor. This allowed me to spend a lot more time with Ayşe’s family. During that year my father-in-law, Esat Egesoy, a professor of Mathematics at Ankara University, using no reference to English taught me not only the Turkish language but most importantly the nuances of its inseparable culture. A gift I still treasure today.

Prof. Dr. Esat Egesoy was the first member in his family to receive a complete education. Born on the island of Cos, which was ruled by the Ottoman Empire until World War I and coming from a Turkish family, Esat’s parents didn’t see a viable future for him on the occupied island. So at the tender age of 11 they sent their son to a boarding school in Izmir. Education changed Esat’s life in every way. To be able to change the lives of others, he became an educator himself. His biggest dream of building a school for needy students was sadly curtailed as he died of heart failure at the age of 53. So the “what” became clear to me – I would give back in education in his honor – but where?

With TPF’s guidance, especially Haldun Tashman’s, I met with the Governor of Adapazari. He pointed me to Caykisla, a small village outside of Adapazari, famous for its cuisine. At that time, in 2007, the population of Caykisla was around 1500. Most of them were Bosnian immigrants who settled there during the Turkish War of Independence and made their living by farming. Caykisla had only 72 houses, mostly dirt roads and no post office and it was one of those unfortunate villages seriously hit by the 1999 earthquake. During my visit, I learned that its only school was never rebuilt but temporarily and hurriedly replaced by using crude metal construction after it was demolished by the earthquake. The original school building was totally destroyed and its metal replacement was grossly inadequate and in poor condition both physically and environmentally. Over-crowded classrooms, one cabinet for a library, poor ventilation and a host of other health and safety hazards were the norm. Despite all these negative aspects, students were full of life, curious and eager to learn. After witnessing these heartbreaking conditions, it was easy for me to decided on the “where.”

I received an amazing amount of enthusiasm and support from the Governor to the local Adapazari Ministry of Education to the village officials and families for our project. Since my savings were not sufficient to finance the engineering and construction of a new school, I opened the ”Porcaro Education Fund” at TPF and began soliciting more funds. I spent a year traveling and speaking about this project all over Turkey and U.S. I was fortunate to meet two twin sisters: Nesli and Asli Basgoz in 2008. Nesli is an infectious disease doctor who lives in Boston while Asli is a corporate lawyer in Istanbul. The Basgoz sisters lost their mother, Bedia Basgoz in 2007. Bedia Basgoz put a lot of emphasis to succeed through education so when they heard about the project, they joined me as equal funding partners. The Esat Egesoy Bedia Basgoz Ilkogretim Okulu was realized. Together, we met so many generous people while promoting our project. Some people donated funds while some donated their works. Our construction contractor donated many extras, the construction engineer donated their services, the Hendik Nursery donated 110 trees and in order to complete the final funding required to start the project, the local Ministry donated concrete.

When I first decided to realize my father-in-law’s dream, I thought I was alone. But along the journey, many others who believed in the power of education joined me. Together, we created not only a school, but also a future for Caykisla children. The school we constructed ground-up stands as modern, safe and earthquake-proof structure not only for the children of Caykisla, but for the two nearby villages as well. So the “how” was realized by early 2010 with an unforgettable dedication ceremony provided by the local Ministry.

But that’s not all. Sadly, no student from these villages ever attended college. We were determined to change this. Since the school’s completion in 2010, we have been funding a scholarship program for after-school college preparation study for 10 to 15 students each year. Last year several of these students entered college. This program is administered by TPF in the US and TEV in Turkey. In addition to Nesli, Asli, Ayse and I, we receive generous support from others for the continuation of the program.

Today, the school is sited on one acre; is a two-story structure with an elevator; and has eight large classrooms, a library room, a science and teachers’ room and a kindergarten classroom. It serves three villages and is populated with 250 bright and eager students. What’s missing and needed is a lunchroom and a gymnasium. This is the “what’s next” in Esat’s and Bedia’s dream.