Turning Sparks into Flames

home-banner-17Raising awareness of violence against women by staged photos, translating thousands of national exam questions to Braille for visually impaired elementary school students, promoting visual arts by writing and staging plays for high school students… These are just a few of the projects initiated by ‘The Sparks.’ The Sparks are female college students from low-income families and small towns of Turkey. They meet under the roof of Change Leaders Association (DLD) with a mission to empower women. These are young women selected among many who want to use their talents to make positive change in their lives and the world we share. As Sparks, they identify social problems in their communities and create projects to address and provide solutions. During the process as project leaders, they learn to be leaders, explore the importance of women in leaderships and explore their own potential.

DLD was established by Sema Basol to create a little spark in communities in Turkey so young women can seek ways to maximize their potentials and believe that they can accomplish anything. Inspired by all the women she met that are making a difference in the world, Sema Basol wanted to empower young women to be more active, responsible and productive members of their societies and take leadership positions. She works relentlessly with notable volunteers to change the perspective of young women on gender roles and were very recently recognized for her work by  21 Leaders for the 21st Century in New York.

The Sparks program of DLD trains and coaches eight female college students every year for eight months. The program is based on the “learning by doing” model so young women take initiatives, work as a team and become active in their communities. Each Sparks project focuses on a different social issue. Few years ago, The Sparks from Izmir initiated a fascinating project to raise awareness on violence against women. The Sparks wrote and staged scenarios of violence against women while they took photographs of these mise-en-scenes. Their photos were displayed at an exhibition in Izmir City Hall for a couple of months. Another group of Sparks from Duzce, created a special project to assist visually impaired elementary school students. They translated 2,000 high school exam questions to Braille. With this project, visually impaired children had the chance to participate in this national high school exam for the first time. In small towns of Turkey, the number of libraries, movie theaters are really small. To fulfill this lack of visual art spaces, another group of Sparks from Duzce took the matter in their hands. They wrote five different screenplays, visited high schools in their towns and acted their plays on stage.

By creating social awareness projects and managing them, the Sparks discover their potential and learn to be leaders. There are currently 200 Sparks all over Turkey raising awareness and addressing social problems. There could be more. Take a look at DLD’s page to help ignite a flame to initiate the change our communities need.

Congratulations to TPF Chairman Mustafa Kemal Abadan

Ellis Island

Congratulations to TPF Chairman Mustafa Kemal Abadan for being selected as one of the recipients of 2016 Ellis Island Medals of Honor! We couldn’t be more proud as TPF family.

Ellis Island Medals of Honor are presented each year on historic Ellis Island to a select group of individuals whose accomplishments in their field and inspired service to U.S.A. are cause for celebration. The Ellis Island Medals of Honor represent the spirit of America in their celebration of patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity. The award recognizes individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America. Since its founding in 1986, the Medal has been officially recognized by both Houses of Congress as one of the nation’s most prestigious awards. In that time distinguished and diverse Americans including six Presidents of the United States; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as esteemed Americans such as Frank Sinatra, Lee Iacocca, Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel,  Louis Zamperini and Rosa Parks, were honored.

TPF’s Chairman Emeritus, Haldun Tashman and TPF’s Founding Partner, Dr. Tamer Seckin are also among the past awardees.


Closing the Hope Gap

Last week, TPF announced the first ever award in economics for female graduate students from Turkey in memory of an accomplished Turkish economist, Sena Eken Schieber. Getting ready to step on the path Sena once travelled, award recipients, Sefane and Ipek, are great examples of what women in Turkey can do when given opportunities. The overall reality of gender gap in Turkey is: a lack of choice, of freedom and of opportunity.

This award is personal. The award’s founder and Sena Eken Schieber’s husband, George, wants to enable young women from Turkey who aren’t financially fortunate to get a great education. The award was designed to support promising students who may not have previously been able to consider graduate school in the U.S. as an option. George saw an enormous possibility to support and strengthen female economists to invest in closing the gender gap in Turkey.

Turkey has a low participation of women in the labor market and low proportion of females graduating from college. For young women of Turkey choices are limited and opportunities are scarce.

Hope fades without seeds of opportunity. Many more Turkish women would join the labor force if they were given the opportunity. There has never been a better moment to invest philanthropic funds on closing the gender gap. And, more importantly, the hope gap. With the Sena Eken Schieber Economics Award, George wanted to find and fund the intersection with the greatest gaps—financial, opportunity and hope.

Our first award recipients underscore how opportunities can result in positive change that will scale in time.

Sefane Cetin was born and raised in Bilecik. Inspired by her elementary school teacher whom she embraced as her role model, Sefane’s childhood dream was becoming a teacher. As she grew up, she realized that there is a bigger world out there than her hometown, Bilecik. Thus, instead of pursuing a degree in education, she decided to focus on a field she was always very fond of, mathematics. During her undergraduate studies at Bilkent University, she took elective courses from different departments, and she discovered her true passion – economics. Fascinated by macroeconomics, she got her first master’s degree at the University of Essex as a Jean Monnet scholar. Not satisfied intellectually with a one-year master’s program, she decided to pursue a second master’s degree at Bilkent University. As she focused on her studies, Sefane’s childhood dream was becoming a reality. For more than a year, she has been working part time as a teaching assistant at Bilkent University. She defines sharing her knowledge with students as ‘priceless’ and would like to continue teaching throughout her life. Sefane was recently accepted to Arizona State University (ASU) as well as John Hopkins University for a PhD program in Economics. She chose ASU as their economics department is more focused on her thesis subject- game theories and modeling. This fall, she will come to the U.S. for the first time in her life where she’ll continue her studies under the supervision of some of the finest economists in the world.

Ipek is from Antalya. She moved to Istanbul to study Management at Bogazici University. During her second year, she started taking Economics as her minor. The more she took classes in Economics, the more she was hooked on with the subject. Ipek also started to work as a teaching assistant and fell in love with teaching immediately. Then, she draw herself a new career path. She decided to become a professor of economics so that she can continue teaching as well as researching in her favorite field. Ipek recently got acceptance from Duke University’s master’s program. Since then, she confessed that she couldn’t think about anything else. She is so excited to start her new journey in the U.S.

Young women like Sefane and Ipek are creating new pathways and a sense of possibility. They are bright and passionate but require support for their ranks to grow. And, TPF is proud to provide the platform for their progress.

Turkish Philanthropy Funds exists because of the vision, generosity and focus of philanthropists like George Schieber, who is an Economist himself and is bringing his global knowledge to provide new opportunities to young women of Turkey.

We look forward to the future, as we are sure of these young women’s accomplishments. Thank you George for your vision. For it will take all of us to close the gender gap.

Sena Eken Schieber’s Legacy Lives

Sena Eken Scheiber's Legacy LivesNew York, NY (May 13, 2016) – Turkish Philanthropy Funds is proud to announce the first-ever Sena Eken Schieber Economics Award recipients: Sefane Cetin from Bilkent University and Ipek Kavasoglu from Bogazici University. Sefane Cetin will continue her studies to obtain a PhD in Economics at Arizona State University. Ipek Kavasoglu will start Duke University’s Masters’ Degree Program in Economics.

The Sena Eken Schieber Economics Awardees were selected on the basis of a competitive process focusing on personal commitment, academic merit, and financial need. Candidates were female students who applied for the Award and were endorsed by institutional representatives of top Turkish universities nationwide. The scholarships will help cover the costs of tuition, fees, books, and living expenses for one year in accredited U.S. Graduate programs in Economics.

The Award was designed to encourage and support outstanding female students with financial need to pursue graduate studies in the field of Economics in the United States. It is the only graduate award of its type in the field of Economics for Turkish women. “I founded the award because both Sena and I strongly believe that any motivated woman in need should have the opportunity to further her education. I was very impressed by all the applicants, but Sefane’s and Ipek’s approaches to their studies and their personal and professional aspirations are truly remarkable. I wish both of them success with their studies in the U.S.,” said George Schieber, a former World Bank Economist and founder of the Scholarship Fund at Turkish Philanthropy Funds.

“We are truly inspired by George Schieber’s generosity to honor his late wife, Sena Eken Schieber. After a rigorous selection process, we are delighted to announce that two young determined and hardworking women were selected as the Award’s first scholarship recipients. We truly believe that Sefane and Ipek will be impressive Ambassadors for the Award and make us proud with their personal and professional accomplishments,” said Ilhan Akbil, President and CEO at Turkish Philanthropy Funds.

About The Sena Eken Schieber Economics Award and Sena Eken Schieber
The Sena Eken Schieber Economics Award is a Scholarship Fund at Turkish Philanthropy Funds established by Sena Eken Schieber’s husband, George Schieber. Sena was an accomplished economist with a distinguished career at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She also worked as an Advisor to the Governor of the Central Bank of Turkey. In addition to her successful career, she actively participated in Turkish economic and cultural events, was a talented photographer who loved to travel, a fitness devotee, a collector of Turkish art, and enjoyed  socializing with friends, family and professional acquaintances.

For more information about the application process for the 2017 Award cycle or other philanthropic accounts at TPF, please visit our website, tpfund.org or call us at646.530.8988


TPF’s First Giving Circle


Balki’s Bal Project

Make a world of difference for women in Van, Turkey by supporting Balki’s Bal Project, one of TPF’s Giving Circles.

Balki’s Bal Project is designed to support a beekeeping project in the outskirts of the city of Van in Turkey, one of the lowest GDP per capita in the country, that teaches underprivileged girls how to raise bees for honey and generate income through the sale of their products.

At present, these girls do not have a hygienic bottling complex in their region for the honey they produce and it prevents them from selling their amazing and organic product in the markets.
This project is specifically raising funds for the construction of a bottling system of the honey produced by these girls and it is expected to open new doors for their product and generate more income.

Click to get involved and learn more details about this fascinating Giving Circle.