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Strength Of Unity; TOÇEV

Ebru Uygun set on her journey in 1994 with the belief that “Every child deserves an education,” by founding “Tüvana Okuma İstekli Çocuk Eğitim Vakfı (TOÇEV).” The CEO of the foundation told us about her 30-year experience in non- governmental organisation as well as the foundation’s current and future projects.


You’ve been the CEO of TOÇEV since its foundation. Thirty years is a huge success for a non-governmental organisation. How did this journey begin?


For me, it started when I was 11. With a friend of mine, I visited Darülaceze. We still collaborate with them at the foundation’s board. I was talking to an old lady there who wanted to speak German and I saw the children playing in the yard. You may also know, children from the age zero to three also live there. I went near them. I think what really affected me was the naiveté and innocence of those children. I continued my undergraduate studies abroad. I worked at a number of NGOs in the U.S. And

I saw how much support was coming from Turkey for the project. It was about aiding public development and children’s education in South Africa. I was so impressed by the system that it reminded me of the children in Turkey who couldn’t go do school and had to work. When I returned to Turkey, I told my family about my goals and idea to build this foundation. I was 22 or 23 years old. Our story started with five children and, today, embraces millions.


What are your thoughts on inequality of opportunity which remains a big obstacle for many children who are born in the same country, breathing the same air?


We realised the inequality of opportunity in education many years ago, when we were touring around Turkey for different projects. To this end, we carried out our first national campaign “Yaşasın Okulumuz.” We repaired 205 village schools in Turkey. We had the opportunity to touch the lives of many children with similar projects in extracurricular education. TOÇEV will continue to advocate equality of opportunity in education.

Working for NGOs has certain aspects that may satisfy you individually. What do you think about this aspect of philanthropy?


I prefer to use the term “sharing” rather than philanthropy as a concept. The more we share, the more we become. When

you start sharing, you can implement this motto in all areas of your life. It’s a nourishing feeling when you not only collaborate with NGOs but also “share” with one another in your personal life. Of course, doing this with NGOs can be much more meaningful and conscious. Adapting this to your life can help you collaborate with people from different backgrounds to find a solution and share important experiences with them. But, as I said, this is something you do for yourself, not only for others. It’s also a process during which you’ll get to know yourself better. When the NGOs, in whatever their field, can achieve instilling a true sense of sharing among shareholders, the contribution that comes from that is priceless. We’ve recently seen an example of this. The disaster, once again, reminded us of the power and importance of NGOs. We’ve seen what an NGO can bring into our lives. To repeat my words from the beginning, achieving a state of mutual sharing is essential. When an NGO can help you feel that, it brings peacefulness and happiness to your life.


How does it feel to contribute to a child’s education or to even have the slightest positive effect on their lives? In the last 30 years, you’ve created projects for more than 7 million children. Can you tell us a bit about what you have in mind for the future?


There’s nothing more in life that makes me happy than touching a child’s heart, walking with them, hand in hand. I’m aware we’ve achieved many things. We’re a big family; we have more than 7 million children and maybe more friends, mentors, and comrades who believe in our cause and walk with us. It’s been 30 years and, if I’m still as excited as the first day when I’m walking into the building, there’s just no way to describe this kind of happiness.

We took a great step during the pandemic. With an urge to protect our world, our environment, ourselves, and our future, we wanted to invest in soil, as an educational institution.

We purchased 53,000 square kilometres of land suitable for organic agriculture in Demirci, Manisa. To ensure the sustainability of the foundation, we started growing organic almonds. We also wanted to preserve biodiversity with fruit trees and aromatic plants. In the future, the revenue from the garden will fund the foundation’s expenses. It’s a productive project with its own cycle of diversity. Just like in nature’s ecosystem, we believe land, environment, and education are inseparable and essential parts of a whole. TOÇEV cares a lot about realising this principle. This will help us reach more kids. This year, we’ll increase our emphasis on children’s rights. We have different projects across the year and will continue to increase awareness with new events. It’ll be a busy year with conferences, exhibitions, workshops, and plays. Another project we wish to make happen is to build a village for TOÇEV where children can camp together and where education meets fun. This will be a project that will both benefit kids and become a sustainable source for the foundation. Recently, I’ve been working on TOÇEV Academy. It’s an important project that

aims to present our NGO knowledge to the public and pass our experience and know-how down to younger generations.


Our aid program “Afet Destek Programı” has provided the needs of 243 TÇCEV children and their families. We also provided supplies for school-age children. Our efforts continue to offer psycho-social support for families about earthquake trauma. The tragedy was far too great and so are their needs. There’s much need for sustainable support. We’ll keep doing our best to support the children and families in the region.





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