I recently participated in the first and largest corporate social responsibility (CSR) event to date for AECOM’s office in Istanbul, Turkey, which included 15 employees renovating the basement of the Bahcelievler Orphanage. And I can tell you that this event has made a large impact on my life.

Many of the children placed in the Bahcelievler Orphanage used to live in violent homes, were abandoned by parents or don’t have parents at all. Some children still have families but live at the orphanage because their parents cannot financially afford to look after them, choosing to have them stay at Bahcelievler and then visit them regularly.

One of the reasons the basement was created was to allow these parents to spend quality time with their children on weekends. If, in time, the family becomes financially stable, they can opt to take the child back home under specific conditions approved by the government that ensure that the parents can safely look after the child.

The Bahcelievler Orphanage’s mission is to provide orphans with the opportunity to grow up in a healthy, happy family environment and with the resources to become responsible and independent adults. The aim of our CSR event was to build a nice place for the children to meet with their parents, as well as to participate in other self-improving social activities such as reading, painting, theatre and drama club, and a small self-improvement laboratory.

SAM_2277_690x355AECOM volunteers pose with the children in front of the Bahcelievler Orphanage in Istanbul, Turkey, following the CSR event. 

This was the first time I was in an orphanage or interacting with orphans. Children between the ages of 4 and 13 worked with AECOM employees to paint the basement, and we all had so much fun playing with the paint on our hands and faces. Although painting together with the children was the most fulfilling part of the event for me, it meant so much more than simply painting. During the two short hours we spent there, I felt honoured to be the cause of someone’s smile, joy and happiness. I was told that this type of event was the first in these children’s lives.

The reason I am so passionate about helping orphans is because these children have faced enormous challenges in their lives that no child should have to experience.

With all of the resources in this world, we have the capacity to look after these children, but we, as a society, are failing them. I believe that it’s because many people aren’t aware of their plight. I desperately want these children to experience love, joy and the other blessings that life has to offer.

Looking back at this event, I feel peaceful, and my heart fills with joy because now these sweet children have a comfortable place that will make them feel more at home. At the end of the day, there were only a few walls of fresh paint but, more important, there were so many memories, stories to share, and happy faces.

UNICEF statistics show that there are 163 million orphaned children waiting for hope. Also, every 18 seconds, a child becomes an orphan without a mother or father. I believe that, together, we can make a difference in an orphaned child’s life, and our team plans to continue working with orphanages as much as we can. I hope you will consider it as well.

Asli_Canyurt_89x100Asli Canyurt is the marketing manager for AECOM in Turkey. She is responsible for all business lines, including environment, construction services, building engineering and transportation. Asli has been married for nine years with no children, but has two cute puppies. She is fond of riding her motorbike, reading and listening to jazz music.

Originally published Aug 27, 2015

Author: Asli Canyurt