Şafak Akın has worked for several international law firms. She is a woman who believes in the Turkish Republic. She is the mother of four children; one of them is already in the business world, one is in college, one is in high school and the smallest is only 3.5 years old.
Akın describes her family as a traditionally Turkish one. Although the ages, personalities, qualities and demands of her children differ from each other, Akın says this variety is enjoyable for her. "I try to manage it with careful planning, love and a little bit of patienceÉ I like being the mother of a crowded family."
Akın is a member of a UNICEF board and the Modern Turkey Works Platform started at the London School of Economics. With her husband Hamdi Akın in 1999, she founded TİKAV, a non-government organization that prepares young people to be leaders of the future by contributing to the personal and social development of university students. Today she runs its Personal Development Project.
Akın decided to leave legal advising in stages 11 years ago and step into the social responsibility. "I have worked in the legal field for ten years at an exhausting pace. I have moved into this field that would provide me with different perspectives for having a better balanced private life and being able to use my legal capacity," Akın says. She describes those years as a time when the term "social responsibility" was redefined: "This area of activity that used to be known as charity work and was not well promoted has become something quite different after its redefinition. Civil society organizations that create projects and do civil works where the state is insufficient have rapidly increased in number and social responsibility projects have begun to add to their credibility." It was at this time that Akın founded TİKAV.
Main area of activity
The personal development program, TİKAV’s main area of activity also has a story. Akın spent the early part of her childhood abroad and witnessed citizens from her native Turkey experiencing problems with miscommunication and adaptation. Akın then decided to apply he program to rural universities in Turkey, starting in the East. The program is now nationwide after ten years. "Our targets for the first ten years included letting the program prove itself and spreading the foundation to earn the status as a public interest foundation," she says. "We reached our targets."
The foundation is running the personal development program in 96 state universities in Turkey to which they invite students through ads. After the evaluation of the applications of students, an interview board chooses the scholarship recipients. Akın believes that students who are accepted to this program turn a new page in their lives.
The students attend various training programs, seminars and workshops during their four-year scholarship period. The students attend to tours and cultural field trips, travel to different parts of the country and examine the culture and art in those places. Through the program, the scholarship holders work at various institutions as service volunteers and take part in an international youth project. The foundation aims to train these students as assets for the future of Turkey.
"We have intervened in one of the many areas that require solutions in Turkey; education. We believe in the equality of chances and thriving to provide that in the field of education," Akın says.
She has many beautiful memories and stories from the years she spent with the students. Computer engineering student, Orhan, the son of a family from Cizre, was a shy boy with insufficient Turkish whom she says she helped transform into a young man who with fluent English and foreign awards. Orhan works at the Port of Mersin now as a data processing manager.
Şazimet is a scholarship holder from Elazığ. After she completed her education and learned English, she won a scholarship from Canada. "Recently, she got an offer from the International College in Istanbul," Akın says.
The International Youth Award, or UGO, being granted in scope of TİKAV actually was started by Prince Philip, husband of the Queen of England. TİKAV is now the award’s national administrator through the Youth Award Foundation, encouraging all youth from 14 to 24 to attend.
"The youth must complete four main stages of this program. First, they must do community service; second, they have to develop a talent like playing guitar or learning a language; third, they have to take interest in a physical activity like dancing. Lastly we offer adventure and discovery through camping. In this area, they learn environmental consciousness, patience and team play," Akın says, adding that a youth who qualifies in all of those categories has already proven herself or himself.
The program constantly cooperates with schools and institutions. Universities, private schools, state schools, orphanages, youth centers, police colleges, and street children all fall within the scope of the award’s portfolio.
Akın notes that Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip have visited Turkey to present awards to 24 young people from Turkey and that two other groups of youth have met with Prince Charles: "Next year we will host Prince Edward at the Youth Award Foundation."
The role of motherhood
Akın, attaching much importance to the role of motherhood, tries to be a mother who is knowing and aware of every subject about her children. Akın argues that the role a mother has in raising new generations cannot be denied and describes being a mother as being the architect of the future.
Akın says when people start new families, the culture they have brought from their own is a main factor. However, Akın believes every generation starts life one step ahead of the previous one. "The generation that followed ours came up with concepts like social and emotional intelligence that has established the new rules for child rearing. This has helped me become someone who cares about her children’s emotional intelligence and social ability as much as their academic performance," Akın says.