“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve…You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
How do we serve?
With these famous words, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shed light on the importance of serving others – no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, and no matter your race, education level, or socioeconomic status. The only thing necessary to serve is to have a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.
It is in this spirit of grace, love, and serving others that the VITA Program has been developed. Since HasNa has from the very beginning worked with promoting constructive dialogue between diverse ethnic groups within Turkey, Armenia, and Cyprus, this program is a natural extension of our mission.
What are our objectives?
We have two main objectives in engaging young people from both Turkey and Armenia in a volunteer-based program.
Firstly, this program will create links between Turkish and Armenian youths to construct cross-cultural networks among their communities. As relations between Turkey and Armenia remain contentious, the political tension impacts individuals on both sides of the border. With this program, which will engage youths in activities where they will be working constructively together, we will bring together individuals from a variety of ethnic, gender, and income backgrounds to gain a better understanding of people coming from different backgrounds and to use these connections to build projects together.
Secondly, we aim to give the students the practical experience necessary to create and develop their own community service projects back at home. What the students learn in their two weeks in DC will give them both the training and the practical, hands-on experience to engage and develop ideas about volunteerism when they return to their home countries. We hope that their ideas will spread as they engage others in their projects back in their own communities.
Keep checking back to see photos and stories from when the participants arrive this Saturday. And leave a comment of encouragement for our participants or any advice you may have on volunteerism, cross-cultural communication and cooperation, and peacebuilding!
HasNa is back to blogging! We’re excited today to bring you the first of several installments detailing our upcoming VITA Project. VITA, which stands for Volunteer Initiative in Turkey & Armenia, will be bringing together 14 young people from Turkey and Armenia here in DC this weekend. For more information, please check out our official press release below. We will be posting updates, photos, and stories from the wide range of activities that the students will be working on over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out!
Program on Civic Engagement brings Armenian and Turkish Youth together in Washington
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 9, 2014 – HasNa’s Volunteer Initiative in Turkey & Armenia (VITA) starts on January 18th with the participants’ arrival to Washington, DC. The VITA participants are 14 young people from Turkey and Armenia from various ethnic, gender and educational backgrounds, united by the idea and the desire to act for the benefit of their communities.
Commenting on the program, Nevzer Stacey, HasNa’s president, said: “The main goal of the program is for the participants to gain an understanding of the importance of volunteerism and civic engagement, so they can become active participants in the development of their communities.” She also added: “Through training and activities, we hope to create links between Turkish and Armenian youth and to construct cross-cultural networks among them and their communities.”
Hripsime (Sime) Amirkhanyan, HasNa’s program associate managing VITA, explained that the program is two-fold. “The first phase will last two weeks and will take place in Washington, DC. While in Washington, the participants will be exposed to volunteerism in the United States through training and service learning activities,” Amirkhanyan said. She concluded that the project is unique because it doesn’t stop there. She explained that “during phase two, the participants will embark on implementing a number of community service initiatives in their own communities across Turkey and Armenia. They will engage other youth to participate in various projects and activities that focus on community service, as in assisting their neighbors, fellow community members, and the elderly, as well as helping other organizations throughout their communities.”
The VITA program is the fourth collaborative program that HasNa has implemented with groups from Armenia and Turkey during the past two years.
This January, Cypriot radio stations Radyo Mayis and Radyo Astra were chosen to receive the famed Kutlu Adalı Award for Talk of the Island, a bi-communal radio program broadcast across Cyprus in both Greek and Turkish.
The Kutlu Adalı Award was created in memory of Cypriot journalist Kutlu Adalı, who was assassinated in 1996. The award is given every year by the Cypriot Press Laborers’ Union in recognition of media professionals working to promote peace in Cyprus.
Talk of the Island is the result of HasNa’s 2005 program implemented with the Management Centre located in north Cyprus and the Future Worlds Center (formerly the Center for Neuroscience and Technology Institute) in the south. Talk of the Island aims to foster communication, understanding, and respect between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots by covering issues that affect both communities. Through bilingual news, music, and discussions that include listeners from the north and south, the program uniquely enables Cypriots to interact and learn about one another across the “Green Line”.
Osman Kalfaoğlu (Radyo Mayıs) and Aral Moral (Radyo Astra) received the award in recognition of the bi-communal broadcast. Speaking about the award, Osman Kalfaoğlu stated: “This is the first time [the Press Laborers’ Union] has awarded a bi-communal program. We should encourage more bi-communal cooperation between journalists and explore ways to allow journalists to be able to exchange information daily across the divide. There is a lot of misinformation about both communities reported in the media and if there was more cooperation between journalists, this could be prevented.”
Visit the Talk of the Island website to listen to live and past recorded airings of the award-winning program.
HasNa has implemented peacebuilding programs in Cyprus focusing on media and communications since 2002. Click here to find out more about HasNa’s related Cyprus programs.
“What happens when you bring diverse individuals from Turkey and Cyprus to the U.S. for training in professional skills, communication skills, and conflict resolution? As HasNa, Inc. has discovered over the last thirteen years, lives change, communities transform, and peace grows…”
With all the attention that HasNa’s programs are receiving in Cyprus and Turkey, it is clear that HasNa plays an integral role in the international peacebuilding community. The Alliance for Peacebuilding, an association of organizations that promote collaborative action for peace and security world-wide, selected an article on HasNa to appear in the initial 2012 online publication of the Peacebuilding Post. The article highlights the experiences of participants in HasNa’s successful water and agriculture programs and captures the impact that our conflict resolution training has had on their lives. HasNa has been an active member of the Alliance for Peacebuilding since 2007.
“This is not a story about the Cyprus problem. It’s a story about the solution.”
Writing in the Cyprus Mail, a leading Cypriot newspaper, journalist Poly Pantelides commended HasNa’s Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) as part of the solution to the ongoing conflict in Cyprus. The author of the article, titled Teen Turnaround, purports that amid the usual political banter of the Cyprus conflict, CFP rises above as a model for peaceful engagement. HasNa board member Warren Muir founded CFP in 2008, which since then has become so successful that a new volunteer-run organization is being created to operate the program.
You can’t fly very far in Turkey without spotting a HasNa project.
“Natural Histories: A journey into the shadow of Ararat,” appears in the October 24, 2011 edition of The New Yorker and follows avid birdwatcher Çağan Şekercioğlu, founder and president of the Turkish environmental NGO KuzeyDoğa. One of HasNa’s partners in eastern Turkey, KuzeyDoğa works to prevent species extinction and ecosystem collapse while ensuring that humans also benefit from wildlife conservation.
The feature mentions HasNa’s ecotourism projects implemented by KuzeyDoğa around Lake Kuyucuk in Kars, Turkey. These projects in 2010 and 2011 trained local residents in environmental protection, conservation of natural resources, conflict resolution, hospitality, and other aspects of ecotourism. The most recent of these trainings helped 20 Turkish women from diverse backgrounds attain the management skills necessary to run bed and breakfasts in the region in order to attract more domestic and international tourism. Elif Batuman’s article in The New Yorker describes the many socioeconomic challenges that remain in the region, but projects such as these provide hope for real environmental and economic improvement.
By highlighting these efforts, the article shows that advancing sustainable and inclusive development in the region is a shared goal. Through our relationships in the U.S, Turkey, Cyprus, and beyond, HasNa aims to make this goal a reality. When it comes to building peace, saving habitats, and improving livelihoods, birds of a feather do flock together.
To read a preview of the article online, click here!
HasNa’s third annual Happy Hour Fundraiser at Madam’s Organ went off without a hitch. The evening began at 5:00 and the bar was packed by 6:00. We were delighted to spend the evening enjoying great conversation, food, and drinks with everyone.
Click to view photos:
This year we had four special guests at the event. The English teachers from HasNa’s English Training for English Teacher’s Program were here in Washington, DC studying at Georgetown University. They had a wonderful time at Madam’s Organ and expressed how impressed they were by Americans’ spirit of volunteerism.
Our supporters play an integral role in HasNa’s work. The money we raised will help us achieve HasNa’s mission to promote cross-cultural understanding and economic empowerment in culturally divided areas of the world.
We would like to thank all those who attended. And to those who didn’t—we hope to see you next time! We are already excited for next summer’s happy hour at Madam’s Organ.
By Alexsandra Fischer