Tepebasi Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation is a organization that act under the wing of Eskisehir Gouverment, precisely Tepebasi Municipality district.
Eskisehir is a city with 14 districts, from which Odunpazare and Tepebasi are biggest and central districts. Within this districts there are 15 Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundations. Each of them is in charge for helping locals and immigrants within their area.
We did an interview with manager of Tepebasi Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation, Tolga, who shared with us what the Association exactly do and in which way they are helping to build more stronger and inclusive society.
First In briefly we will introduce you with the background of the Association.
Tepebaşı Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation was officially established on 20.12.2008 and it is runned by manager Tolga Gülmez.
It is a charity organisation which aims to help thoose in need and provide solidarity, technical and psychological help in different areas, like educational one, improving lifestyle of people, helping with accomodation, food, providing clothes…
As Eskisehir is know in Turkey for its large number of migrants, imigrants and refugees, one of the ways this organisation works is that they try to help them assimiliate into the society, help them gain some skills, help them with paperwork or with going further abroad. The main sources from which they are providing the help and distributing the goods are from Eskisehir Gouverment, EU budget programs, Food Bank society, large companies and brands from which they take donations like Migros, Carefour and many more.
Under the direction of association is food bank, social market, social library, many different language courses and tehnical courses like cooking classes,etc.
Social Market is a place which provide all basic necessities for free for thoose who cannot provide them for themselves.
What is food bank and Social Market?
Tolga: We created social market, which means people are coming here and ask for help, some of them ask for food because they don’t have enough money to buy it. First we were giving them food packages, 6 years ago. It was not enough for us. So we thought about creating a market. When people come here we immediately help them. But that is not the structure, off course we need some rules, decisions, rules about them and off course we create a structure and after that we make it easy. And people don’t spend they time they don’t wait if they need something. When they come here, we search and decide how can we find some certain amount of money, some package, needs for them. In that social market our first purpose are people who should take their needs in a comfort.
After that Social market become kind of Erasmus program, because in that program we took some people from Erasmus+ program and they worked as volunteer in this area for us. In Social Market we have food packages, cleaning stuff, off course clothes. And then we started to take donations from big markets, like Metro, Migros, Carrefour and that becomes food banking program. In Turkish law system, if they want to give donations to some organizations like us, you can take donation, we are legal organization which can legally accept donation. If a person or a brand give donation to us, they also cut this amount of money from taxes. It is advantage in tax system. But not all organizations can except that.
After becoming food bank program, we have some agreements with big brands like Migros, Nike, Adidas, donations are becoming more and more. Wright now our social market is not really big and comfortable. Off course, we will improve it in short periods of time. Youth and sport Ministry also help us , as well as other organizations.
Social Market is a kind of butik store, we are continuing taking donations, we have very big two stores more, we put all donations there after that our friend go to those stores choose some clothes, food and take them here, when people come here they choose what is suitable for them and take it.
There are numerous number of immigrants in Eskisehir who are facing many challenges like finding a proper job, language issues, paperwork issues, invalid education and many more.
There is a lot of people from Bulgaria, Kosovo, Greece. Eskisehir is kind of a migrant city in that structure. You can find 10 of different cultures originates. I am Tatarian. My grandpa came to Russia, then Bulgaria then Turkey, but in Eskisehir we are living in that kind of multicultural way. In Eskisehir cuisine you can find many type of dishes. In this structure we wanted to create projects for migrants, form Syria, Irak, Iran, Somalia, African migrants. We become popular with that, wright now we are working with World Food program and you cannot find social solidarity assistance like us with that kind of structure.
When we talk about migrants, we need to separate them. For example, Syrians, we accept them as guest, we think they will return to their country, but in Eskisehir, we have under protected migrants here, From Iran, Irak, Afrika, their main purpose it to go to 3rd country after Turkey, to Europe, Us, Canada. They are refugees.
Last we created kitchen for them, international kitchen (donations from unhcr) for Turskih people and migrants. Our main purpose is to cook together, so they cooked together and get some classes, we support them some amount of money for basic expenses. After that they cook together, they learn their culture and exchange it. It’s a course and after that they got a job. Most important problem for migrants is their diplomas, they don’t find easily a job and especially legal laws are very hard for them to prepare themselves as employers. We create that kind of courses here and and they can spend their time here, learn new things, learn how to cook, we also create social activities for them and their kids because its also another problem. Especially for women, there are lonely and sometimes alone with their kids, they did not find anyone to look after their kids. And that is why we also need to organize some activities for their kids. That kind of activities became Erasmus plus project. We also got fund from Europe and also UN.
We are also working with human resource agency for finding a job. When we create a course they give us some amount of money. 50 lira per day, for transportation and stuff. Its social activities, they earn some money and get certificate.
One of the Succesfull stories stories from this Foundation is about an Iranian Young man who finish baking class organised by the Foundation. After that he found a job in a local patisserie. He had an idea about creating a special cookie with cheakpeas, he realized his idea and a cookie became instant hit. Today that cookie is one of the symbols of Eskisehir and it is sold in local patisseries and in souvenir shops, especially in the old part of the city Odunpazare.
Within Erasmus+ (ESC-European Solidarity Corps and Erasmus+ youth exchange) organisation is accepting volunteers from Europe, providing them accomodation, food and pocket money in exchange for their contribution to the foundation. The themes of the projects are various from educational ones, ecological, cultural, youthfull topics, suistainable development topics…
Tolga: Our last project was food banking. We have bug stores, we took demands, we need to prepare products, volunteer organized social market, do a check list, they also work with children, food bank, food saving, energy saving program. They went to more than 20-25 school , explain their work, source saving green energy program, played games.
Beside Volunteers from Europe, Foundation is also accepting local students and volunteers.
Tolga: Some student came for internship and we have connection with them, a students come because of their studies, their professors send them here they took notes. When they learn, they want to help us, and most of them come back or work as volunteer.
Sometimes they are creating ideas and we are supporting, for example organizing museum trip for children who never went to the museum, cooking pancakes , making hand make products, calligraphy workshop with-artistic ottoman style.
In the building of the Foundation there is also a Social Library open and free for everyone to join:
Tolga: Social library is a project idea. This is not our project idea. There was Youth and sport management ministries and they announce a kind of program and we wanted to apply for that program and we created that kind of project. Their idea was a bit different from our idea, we were in the middle . They accept our idea and gave us the funds, but it was not enough. We asked UN for help. They also give us some stuff for this place and totally with that 2 amount of budget we organize a place.
In the library we have total of 4000 books. We also try to put books from different languages, for foreigners. This people cannot find enough sources for education, social activities, to learn something new. They come here they can learn, join, read, join the workshops. Some writers , important people are coming and meeting with people and having a discussions and speeches, also women wrights supporters are coming, young people, influencers.
Also, there are organising Turkish Language courses from level 1-3. They have special stuff for foreigners, they can speak English, Arabic and Persian
Unfortunately, because of pandemic situation, organisation stopped with their project three weeks ago. But hopefuly, they will soon continue with their work and create many more successful stories.