Hello from our peaceful and safe space that enables us to re(connect), share,  listen and heal!

  I am proud to report that June has been a very busy and fulfilling month with many activities.

 Since the beginning of June we have had the pleasure of hosting our first scholar-in-residence, Cansu Dayan (PhD, Hacettepe University, Institute of Population Studies). She opens a new path in poverty studies through the discussions of art as a missing dimension in terms of poverty measurement. Coining “art deprivation” and “art poverty”, Cansu claims current poverty rates to be mis-measured in the absence of art dimension and to considerably increase both at household and country levels when measured. She is coordinating the fieldwork of a research project on gender-based violence against women in politics in Turkey funded by UN Women while preparing her book proposal and post-doc applications during her stay at UmAy. ( To know more about her work )

I attended Turkey’s first upcycling festival in Istanbul on 5th of June.This festival aimed to raise awareness about upcycling and conscious use of our resources, to show through art and design that makes the ideas really memorable. There were talks, exhibitions and workshops for people to learn by practicing these innovative ideas personally and creatively (https://upcycleistanbul.com/). It was encouraging and inspiring to encounter these ideas and people for our future projects that we are planning with Insirah Collective, a social enterprise in Istanbul. They make and retail eco-friendly products from textile waste. They hold regular workshops and talks on sustainable living, climate change and environmental protection. Their mission is to upcycle textile waste and help vulnerable women displaced by fossil fuel wars. We already had a meeting and presented our proposal to Sapanca Municipality. They are interested in being a part of our project so we shared and discussed possible  following steps that involve schools, families, youth and children in Sapanca in educational settings to gain long term results.We will see if everything goes well as there are many financial and social challenges emerging everyday in Turkey.

We had a chance to organize uplifting meetings that we called “Time and Theme Limited Talks’’ with Özlem Ezer and Cansu Dayan on the 11th &12th of June.

Cansu Dayan presented her stories behind her academic path and summarized her dissertation that she recently defended. It was inspiring to listen to the stories and life experiences behind her studies.

Özlem shared the highlights from her talk “Re‐writing the Past[oral]: Nature and Mysticism in Süheylâ Artemel’s Work” that she presented at the International Environmental Humanities Conference, Cappadocia University in the first part of her talk. The second part was dedicated to the highlights of her presentation at the Center for Media, Religion and Culture, University of Colorado- Boulder, which took place in Paris on May 30-31st. Her paper was about the book that she is about to submit to the publisher whose main theme is the faith-practices of displaced Syrian Muslim women.

I shared about eco-psychology and animal-assisted intervention which I have been studying since April. (Animal Assisted Interventions program provided by International Association of Human-Animal Interaction(IAHAIO)& Amsterdam Autisme Academie). I also attended the first Congress on Animal Assisted Interventions in Yalova, Turkey between 24/25 / 26- 06-2022.

One of our supporters, Taha (who initially built our website and hosted) and his colleague Semih, who is also a civil engineer, joined our meeting. Q&A sessions were mind-opening.

On 21th of June we hosted Kadir Yıldırım to honor World Refugee Day (20th of June).  A long-term partner in crime (yes, we began our volunteer projects back at METU, Cyprus in 2013) Kadir is a psychological counselor and he has been working with refugees for 3 years in different settings. He is continuing his work as  coordinator of Istanbul Küçükçekmece Immigrant and Refugee Coordination Center. We had a chance to listen to his experiences in the field and services they are providing to refugee communities and also challenges they are having on a daily basis.

Following the completion of my 4 month full time work here after a long break since we founded UmAy, I was inspired to continue to collaborate with women from different backgrounds and with different target groups. You may have noticed however that the projects and events I focused on were mostly related to environment and wellness. I realized I was not able to make enough effort to reach immigrant and refugee communities while taking care of these small projects. With hope and commitment I look forward to being able to continue to hold more space and collaborate with Refugee Organizations in the coming months.

We are continuing to practice permaculture. We planted new trees  and we are also preparing  to harvest the first fruits of  summer and vegetables that we  grow. It is a treasure and blessing  for us to have homegrown, safe resources,  and the joy of growing our own food while learning from the land. As we are practicing permaculture I notice there are lots of native plants reappearing in the garden now and many bees. I guess UmAy has become a safe space for animals and plants too as our garden remains a chemical-free and pesticides-free zone. Kittens, many birds of different sizes and tunes, porcupines, butterflies… and more!

Our founder Ozlem Ezer will be pausing her involvement with UmAy beginning July 15th mainly due to her intensified responsibilities of family care, the need to allocate more time for her research and writing in multiple fields and continents. It’s been wonderful to have her support and ideas throughout but we were also aware that she repeatedly expressed her wish to step down after three years from the start, handing the administration, maintenance and organization over to a younger team of grounded idealists and practitioners. As a gesture of appreciation for her relentless work, networking, fundraising, and visions for UmAy, we will offer her a room and vegetarian meals at Umay as a scholar or writer-in-residence (the hat or the role she loves the most!) whenever her time allows or her next deadline requires a peaceful space to retreat and work.

We hope to share more news about her keeping a bond with UmAy in August. Beginning in October 2022, she intends to moderate a reading group in English via zoom on every 6 weeks. The works will be chosen from different genres but will speak to the mission and vision of UmAy in one way or another. Details will be shared as the time approaches. Please don’t hesitate to contact her directly via email for ideas and questions regarding the reading group.

Thank you everyone for your generosity who are involved in  our journey in many different ways.

You are welcome to join our monthly reading group. This meeting’s language is Turkish.

Warm wishes,

Sevilya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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