SosyalBen Foundation is changing children’s lives
When she was 14, Ece Çiftçi decided she would make art more accessible and help children bring out their talents.
It was when she was in eighth grade a professor gathering volunteers for schools in Nepal visited her school and touched Ece with her words. For the first time then she was exposed to the concept of “caring about the whole world.”
She was very young and could not go to Nepal, but that year she worked in a youth center in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, close to the Syrian border. She was aware of the privilege she had and so wanted children who were not as lucky as her to have access to that, too.
She brought painting, music and dance workshops from her school to these children. She continued doing this work in the same place for four years until she graduated from high school. This was what she wanted to do in life.
But when the project’s sponsor left them in the lurch, she and her friends started selling umbrellas in order to pay the expenses. Some 700 umbrellas sold in three weeks were enough to fund the project.
Ece today is 24 years old and the SosyalBen Foundation she founded back then is now a civil society organization that functions in 65 provinces with 350 volunteers.
SosyalBen reaches out to not only children in Turkey but also those living under difficult conditions in other places in the world. They go everywhere they can, from Gambia to Jordan and Cambodia to India.
They were able to go to Africa by selling umbrellas. Later they also sold notebooks, canvas bags and pencils, and in time they formed the SosyalBen shop.
Their products are sold on e-commerce websites such as Lidyana and n11. 23 Mudo also spared a corner for their products in their shop.
With the income from these sales, they organize workshops for mobile teaching primary school students to bring out their talent and help them develop them.
At the painting workshop, they do not only paint but also get to know artists. In the short film workshop, they see the work does not only involve acting.
They gain public speaking skills at the theater workshop.
This work is very important for children in the villages. Because there, children are conditioned to think that there are only three professions: Police, doctor and teacher.
When they visited Soma, a district which has seen 301 miners die in the worst industrial disaster in Turkey’s history in 2014, SosyalBen found that children whose fathers were killed say they wanted to become doctors or engineers when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. But before the disaster, they said they wanted to become mine workers. Some, now, even say they want to be corporate social responsibility (CSR) experts.
Apart from the foundation’s shop, they also collect funds through the SosyalBen Academy. They sell a curriculum for social entrepreneurship lessons, which they prepare, to private schools.
Children, who take this lesson, become active citizens.
They do not only see the problems but also take action to solve them.
They start taking the initiative to help others.
And what’s most important is, they move away from being individuals to thinking collectively.
It is when children are raised like this, the society transforms.
As the New Year approaches, let’s point out SosyalBen for those looking for presents.
Do not forget that a notebook or an umbrella you buy from SosyalBen will open a window to those children living and studying under difficult conditions.