Our Forever Growing Family.

colorful aylin tashman kimA Colorful Story by Aylin Tashman Kim

As a first-generation American born and raised in Arizona, my extended family was always far away. I longed for summer when I would travel to Istanbul to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, not to mention the millions of people who looked so much like me. I envied my friends at school who grew up close to their extended families and would share weekends and meals with them. However, in my late teens, our small family of four slowly started to transform into a more dynamic and bigger family than I could have ever wished for. No, I didn’t become a sister again at the age of 20 if that’s what you are thinking. Rather it was through my parent’s involvement with philanthropy that we found ourselves in a loving family that has continued to grow over the past 15 years.

It all starts in Bolu, Turkey, with my grandmother, Zehra Tashman. Back in 1940s when my father, Haldun Tashman, was born, my grandparents were struggling financially. As the Tashman brothers got older, they helped their dad run his small shop in the town, learning the key elements of business and the value of entreprenuership at a very young age. My Babaanne had the foresight to believe that education was going to be her children’s path to financial freedom—a vision she was willing to sacrifice her own lifestyle. Through her tremendous influence, the importance of education was impressed upon 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 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, the universal themes 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! Looking back, my father was immensely grateful for the opportunity to study business administration at Columbia University which changed his life. 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 dinners 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 take 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 a single area of philanthropy and the fulfilment 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 feasibility studies 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 of 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 grants, 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!

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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.

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.”

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