About five years ago a group of thirty to forty successful men from all ages started getting together to socialize every month in New York. It was a time for them to unwind, eat, drink, and discuss sports and current events. It was just a casual thing they did every month until a meaningful purpose was added to these gatherings – a drive to make a difference in the lives of young women in Turkey.
Led by Berkin Koloğlu, Saffet Özbalcı, Serhan Seçmen and Onur Karayal, the group decided to form a giving circle at TPF. Since Onur has seen the impact of PAYDA, an organization supporting young women, first hand, he recommended working with them. This was the beginning of their giving circle journey. “Despite having lived in the U.S. for many years, our ties to Turkey remain strong. Given the relatively low level of philanthropic activity there, it made a lot of sense to direct our efforts towards projects in Turkey. It has been a rewarding experience to be able to use our network in the U.S. to fund such an important cause in our country of birth,” said Berkin on their decision to give back to Turkey.
PAYDA works with female students to build bridges between communities in Eastern and Western Turkey. Their impactful projects such as “Connecting Schools,” and “Circle of Hope” spoke to the interests of the whole group. For two and a half years, they held various fundraisers. In their first year, they raised close to $18,000 and decided to fund a project in Mardin. The funds sponsored 250 young women in just one year! This ignited everyone involved. They wanted to support more students. In their second year, they raised more than $35,000.
“We will continue to keep this project alive as long as possible because we know that educating a girl will not only help her but her whole community,” says Onur Karayal. What started as a few friends getting together turned into something amazing that all the group members are very proud of. The group is getting larger and becoming more ambitious with their vision. They continue to raise funds for PAYDA but would like to also explore other impactful projects that can support the livelihoods of young women in Eastern Turkey.
This year’s campaign, Giving for Girls Education’s, which aims to elevate Turkey’s achievements in the fields of science, technology, and the arts already passed its targeted $50K. Onur Karayal said the group’s driving force can be summarized with this famous African proverb “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)”, which reiterates the importance of girls education.