Meet our Interns and Volunteers!

The team at Turkish Philanthropy Funds includes some of the most passionate and hard-working people around, and our interns and volunteers are no exception. Meet our Spring/Summer helpers!


Asli Surek (Intern)

In five years, I will be: 28 Years Old

My favorite TPF quality is: How helpful everyone is.

My favorite food is: SANDWICHES.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you? Partner pages!

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Ipek Basaran (Intern)

In five years, I hope to finish law school and start practicing law.

My favorite TPF quality is transparency about all projects that it funds and donations that it receives.

My favorite food is homemade manti that my grandmother still prepares.


Betul K. Yildiz (Volunteer)

In five years, I will be: Working in a large fashion company and co-founder/founder of my own company!

TPF is: Strong, Intellectual and like the Turkic Goddess Umay !

My favorite food is: Adana Kebab

What does a typical day in the office look like for you? Working on TPF’s website all day and learning more about the nonprofit world!


Damla Alkan (Intern)

What does a typical day in the office look like for you? Research, Contemplation, and Coffee

In five years, I will be: Ruling the world.

My favorite TPF quality isThe call to educate women.

My favorite food isIskender…and ayran!


Nicole Riker (Intern)

In five years, I will be: Teaching children in a non profit organization based on education and sport

My favorite TPF quality is: Efficient yet harmonious atmosphere

My favorite food isCheesecake


Want to intern with TPF? Email with your resume and tell us why you want to join our team!

Typhoon Haiyan Relief Grants

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Immediately after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November of 2013, TPF reacted and started a Relief Fund to aid the victims of the disaster. With the funds raised, TPF collaborated with Turkish Coalition of America, who sponsored a national Turkish American donation drive and donated $100,000 to help with the Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts after the typhoon hit the Philippines in November 2013. Four $25,000 grants were given to Filipino American organizations in the United States—the Philippine Cultural Foundation of Maryland, March 7; the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu, Hawaii, March 20; the Filipino Community of Seattle, April 23; and the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce Texas, July 1.

Read more about the grants on TCA’s website:

Grant to Philippine Cultural Foundation of Maryland

Grant to Filipino Community Center in Waipahu, Hawaii

Grant to Filipino Community of Seattle

Grant to Philippine American Chamber of Commerce Texas


Rebuilding A Community: SOMA Disaster Relief Fund Update

Why TPF?

We understand that local NGOs are the first on the scene when disasters occur and that they know best what assistance is needed and understand the complex political, social and cultural context of a disaster. TPF has been working with organizations on the ground in Turkey providing social services, helping communities cope with disasters and educating the future generation since 2007. Currently, we have 38 formal partners in Turkey and a big network that we can tap into to get real-time updates. These connections enable us to make our grants wisely and be efficient.

Currently, our focus on the “three Rs” – Recovery, Rebuilding and Resilience – is an example of the strategic way we work on issues crucial to our communities after a disaster. Your help ensures a fourth: Results.

What’s happening in terms of relief efforts right now?

A new initiative, SITAP (Civil Society Platform for Disasters) responded relatively quickly to the SOMA disaster bringing together organizations that are providing and are planning to provide social services in the area to discuss the efficiency and effectiveness of the aid.  A summary of their initial assessments in the region is as follows:

  • All relief and recovery efforts are led by the government agency, AFAD (Disaster & Emergency Management Presidency) through related Ministries. However, AFAD’s communication with civil society organizations is very limited.
  • Security forces control all entries to the town of SOMA.
  • The main need of many civil society organizations is correct and rapid information on the needs of the affected.
  • Many organizations have started fundraising campaigns and are getting ready to respond, however for efficiency and not to be replicated, efforts need to be coordinated.
  • The mine that exploded was in the town of SOMA. However, the people that died or were affected from the tragedy spread to more than 15 towns and villages. Therefore, basing all relief efforts to SOMA will not provide the needed support.
  • Diversifying options for income generation or advocating for other energy resources will have an impact on the whole community, not just the ones directly impacted by the tragedy.
  • The most important and urgent need is noted as psychosocial support. At present, only the government provides these services.
  • All civil society organizations that came together under the umbrella of SITAP are interested in providing long-term solutions to problems facing the mining industry in Turkey.

When will TPF start making grants?

TPF has sent a call for proposals to all of its grantee partners asking for applications. The applications will be reviewed and grants will be made on a rolling basis. Additionally, we have been in touch with organizations that TPF has not worked before but have been introduced, as they’re active on the ground in the disaster area. Currently, these organizations have been going through TPF’s eligibility process to be able to apply for a grant. We will announce the grants as we make them.

Our Priorities Now

After a disaster strikes, TPF sees its role as filling gaps between emergency relief and long-term development programs. TPF’s priority right now is to provide support on the following areas:

  1. Education: TPF wants to prioritize providing financial support to the children of miners who have lost their lives. However, we also understand that the funds raised for scholarships have surpassed the need so we will work with organizations that also provide education on mine security, decreasing the probability of accidents and first-aid to miners; and organizations that provide skill enhancing skills to women who now has to become breadwinners of their families.
  2. Psychosocial support: Even though the town of Soma has been singled out after the disaster, the casualties were from more than 15 neighboring towns and villages. Hence, TPF is interested in supporting projects that can provide psychosocial support to people impacted in those other towns as well.
  3. Diversifying income generation: TPF is interested in supporting organizations that can provide new avenues for revenue generation and increase opportunities for employment in sectors other than mining. These might include projects to develop agriculture in the area or establishing workshops or co-operatives to train women and create new income opportunities.

 Our Arrangements for the Future

Our Van Earthquake experience has taught us that coordination among civil society organizations providing relief efforts is very important right after a disaster, when needs are immense and funding is limited. Effective coordination allows funds to be allocated efficiently and effectively. Additionally, the government needs to also coordinate recovery and rebuilding efforts with civil society organizations.  If enough funds are raised, TPF plans to support initiatives that can help with the coordination efforts among civil society organizations to prepare communities and civil society sector in large for future disasters.

TPF’s COO Speaks on Girls’ Education in Turkey

Turkish Philanthropy Funds’ COO, Senay Ataselim Yilmaz, spoke at the New York Turkish Film Festival’s screening of the film “Girls of Hope”. Read the full text of the speech below.

Thank you, Selen. I am delighted to be seating in this panel. Thanks to American Turkish Society and Moon and Stars Project for including Girls of Hope in this year’s Turkish Film Festival. Congratulations to Aysegul for a wonderful job done by telling the stories of these girls. It is an area that we need to discuss constantly.

When Turkish Philanthropy Funds screened the documentary back in October, the feedback we got from the crowd showed us that this documentary really gets into the crocs of the issue: the social norms. We have social norms in Turkey that limit and hinder girls and women. Yet, when girls and women are given the opportunity to speak up and be heard, they flourish and eventually, as every report written on the issue notes, everyone benefits.

Before I answer your question, let me briefly tell you about my organization. Turkish Philanthropy Funds is a diaspora organization connecting causes in Turkey with donors in the US. We offer our services in 3 ways:

-       We provide individualized philanthropic services through component funds such as Donor Advised Funds

-       We provide a platform for NGOs in Turkey to fundraise from the US. We currently have 38 partners from Turkey

-       We educate our donors and the public on the social needs and organizations addressing those in Turkey.

 Gender equality and girls and women empowerment is one of the areas we work in. I’d like to focus on three messages to answer your question, Selen: 1. Why girls’ education and women empowerment matters? 2. What is the scale of the challenge? &  3. Last but not least what we can do about it?


So, why does it matter?

As we have seen in the documentary, these girls have no say on their lives or in their communities. Globally, 188 countries signed the 1979 Convention that outlaws discrimination. 75 countries including Turkey have passed laws that prohibit discrimination. A strong legislative response is an important first step, yet it’s not enough. In Turkey, all laws and regulations are in place, yet, there still is a huge gap in gender equality. Turkey ranks 127th out of 135 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report. The legislation, however well intentioned is not enough to change the mentalities in an abidingly patriarchal nation such as Turkey. If we talk about the heart of challenges for women’s empowerment in Turkey, norms and traditions actively constrain opportunities for girls and women. Until norms evolve to allow greater agency for them, cycles of poverty will not be broken.

What is the scale of the challenge?

In terms of gender equality, Turkey is a contradictory country. Women make up approximately 26 percent of the top executives. Twelve percent of Turkish CEOs are women in comparison to four percent of Fortune 1000 companies in the United States. Yet, on the other side, 10% of women are illiterate, while only less than 2% of man are illiterate. 70 % of women don’t have any primary school education. Only 14% are at least high school graduates.

-          Despite the fact that primary education (which is 8 years) is compulsory, school dropouts is a significant issue. 56% of females drop out of high school and is concentrated in the 5th and 6th grades.

-          If given opportunity, women do well in college. 43% all university students are women. 70% of female university graduates are employed. This rate is only 22% for women with little education.

The female employment is at mere 26% nationwide. We all know that higher education attainment is associated with higher levels of female labor force participation, and investment in education of girls promotes gender equality in earnings and labor market opportunities.  But, Turkey contradicts this. While the gender gap in education narrows, female participation in the workforce hasn’t increased.

It is obvious that education gives girls an opportunity to be heard. However, existing ideas on traditional gender roles are  important obstacles in girls education: patriarchal family structures and traditional norms and values about women’s roles keep girls away from school. There are “0” child brides in Turkey with a high school diploma. Girls are 2x more likely to marry early if they don’t go to school. And, of course poverty plays a significant role in family’s decision in sending their children to school. If they have to make a choice they prefer the education of boys, while the girls have to stay at home to support their mothers with household duties. Even though school attendance is compulsory, it is difficult to enforce, since monitoring is hindered by the fact that not all children are registered.

What can we do?

These challenges require change in attitudes by all of us about our behavior and actions. The good news is social norms can change. We see that the gender gap in education globally including in Turkey is rapidly closing. That shows a change in behaviors. Yet, change in social norms takes time, it’s a slow process. Turkey has its own laws in place but they’re not reaching the norms yet so they’re not fully implemented.

So, it’s also very important to acknowledge that you cannot change norms if you’re only talking to women and girls about changing the norms that restrict their voices. You have to broaden that conversation. As we see in the documentary, Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi, has implemented this approach to its scholarship program. They have not only been giving scholarships (which is only about $400/year for high school students and $1,000/year for university students), but also through their local grassroots organizations they do a lot of advocacy on behalf of girls to include families into the conversation.

As Turkish Philanthropy Funds, our approach to the issue is to go beyond empowering women but decrease the gender gap in Turkey, which means increasing the status of women in society. Accordingly, we approach the issue of girls education from multiple aspects. Supporting girls education programs such as Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi scholarship program is one. We have also been supporting projects that enhance skills while educating them. Sometimes girls do not have the opportunity to go to formal schooling so we look into options that can in a way give them an opportunity to formally get involved in the formal economy. One of these projects is in Van. It is kilim weaving workshops run by our partner, Hisar Anadolu Destek Dernegi. Girls from families of 10-15 and who are the sole breadwinner in their families, learn how to weave kilim at these workshops. Van is a city in the Eastern country which received a lot of migration from the Southern Eastern Turkey so the unemployment rate is very high. These girls as the sole breadwinner of their families are given opportunities with these workshops.

They also get the opportunity to continue their education at these workshops or even learn how to read and write. 2 of these girls won the university exams and have started college last year. So, this project is really making a difference in these girls lives.  These workshops create a different avenue to empower girls who for whatever reason were not sent to formal schooling. These workshops also deal with bias against women in these communities. With small incremental changes  these projects are changing social norms in these communities while educating and empowering these girls. And giving them a voice.

We, at Turkish Philanthropy Funds, are very pleased to be able to provide a platform from the US to give these girls an opportunity.