Bridging Hearts

Solidarity through creativity

Our Story
GÖNÜL KÖPRÜSÜ is a non profit organisation that strives to build understanding, peace and prosperity  between local and immigrant communities through creative economy.

We are founded by a group of Turks and Syrians who do care about finding long lasting solutions for the problems of the communities that suffer from shortcomings like inadequate education and incompetency of the youth, gender inequality, religious conservatism, loss of jobs and the lack of social cohesion. We want to spread our energy through arts and creative sectors that have a universal language, through which a new way of understanding may be built, new jobs created, social cohesion achieved.

Our seat is in Şanlıurfa (Urfa), a city of 2.500.000 in the border between Syria and Turkey, that already hosts more than 500.000 Syrian immigrants. We are aware that this region already had development issues, eminent unemployment rates and difficulties in reaching high quality education. We underline our intention to embrace both local and immigrant communities, -our target being foremost the youth and women-, bearing in mind that both share the similar culture and suffer from the same problems.

Despite the fact that our interest region is considered economically backwards, the multi cultural layering of the society, inherited generation to generation, together with the similarities between the hosts and the newcomers makes it an ideal place for reaching the social harmony. We believe that cultural and artistic activities that would praise togetherness in fascinating diversity would be a perfect starting point for a better society where all have a decent place. We target providing digital art workshops, artist residencies, music and theater festivals, literature and documentary researches, crafts training program sto name a few.

We are keen to create a sustainable, circular economic model, that would boost cultural life, create new and highly on demand products without polluting the nature, which we believe is the only way for sustainable growth. What others see as "backwardness", we see rich cultural heritage that awaits to be introduced to the contemporary era.

We are open to new ideas and proposals that fit in our scope in order to change/ challenge the society. In order to achieve our goal of an art loving, tolerant, open society where all may live notwithstanding differences that divide people we are open to your proposals and suggestions.

Please feel free to write and eventually join us.
Vision
* CREATIVE EXPRESSION TO HELP SOCIAL COHESION *
* CULTURAL HERITAGE AND COLLECTIVE HISTORY PRESERVED *
* IMPROVED CULTURAL AND SOCIAL DIALOGUE *
* LOCAL CREATIVITY FLOURISHED BY CIRCULAR BUSINESS MODELS *
* DIGITAL INCLUSION INCREASED *

Gender Mainstreaming

As a female-led organisation in the Middle East, we are acutely aware of gender issues and we do our best to contribute to some sort of solution or at least improvement, not only in our professional capacity but also in daily life.

Community-Based Participation

We are keen to make real positive change. Our approach is inclusive and community based. We are very careful not to develop projects that look good on paper but make little difference in the community.

Circular Economy

We believe that circularity is the key to a sustainable world; by re-using resources in a closed loop instead of using new raw materials. In this direction, we look at traditional crafts and methods, which often give the clues on how to accomplish it.

Integrity

We encourage all of our members, involved partners, volunteers and staff to act in a professional manner, avoid conflict of interest and use resources efficiently at all times. We have a very strong stand against corruption as an organisation and have zero tolerance for it.

Özge Dursun

Executive Director

Aslı Bilge, PhD

Programme Director

Oytun Altaşlı

Treasurer

Hellen Almoustafa

Founding Board Member

Betül Bagdadi Tilley

Founding Board Member

Ömer Ademoğlu

Founding Board Member

Zeki Özdemir, CPA

Founding Board Member

Saad Alnassife

Ebru Aktan

Khaled Shaaban

Isabelle Graeff

PRESERVING HERITAGE
In Urfa there is so much to preserve! One of the oldest cities in the world, with hundreds of registered buildings, the architecture of the city speaks for itself. Our main aim is to help the restoration of this cultural heritage while encouraging the use of traditional materials in new constructions. The formation of a new generation of craftsmen who will produce adequate materials for the restorations such as carvers for the famous yellow Urfa stone is one of our primary goals.

The most important of our projects is the setting up of a workshop for forming the carving masters of the Urfa stone, a local material abundant in the region, used to construct majority of the old buildings. After the advent of the concrete, this material was set aside and the masters who transmitted this craftsmanship generation to generation simply get too old and unable to pass the hand to new apprentices.

Curiously enough, in Syria this craft is still practiced and new craftsmen formed from an early age in the workshops. As a natural consequence of the Syrian immigration to Turkey, many craftsmen who still practice this art live in Urfa region. We aim to organize a workshop to provide vocational training that will be open to the immigrant and local youth, vulnerable to economic uncertainty due to unusually high unemployment rates in this part of Turkey.

To learn a new craft translates to a new job and means more social cohesion between the two communities!
DIGITAL INCLUSION
The world is changing and new knowledge is a sine qua non to cope with the new and often frightening challenges. Digital technologies offer easy to acquire, universally valid new skills for the economically vulnerable segments of the society. We offer a highly qualified digital learning programme for local and immigrant youth. 

We developed a program of 'digital image producing technologies' to provide the immigrant and local youth with a fast learning and low investment model of vocational training. At the same time, these techniques are internationally recognized in a highly competitive market. In the world that we are living in, creative economies are keys to a myriad of jobs.

A person trained in digital technology is endowed with skills that are valid even in highly stagnant economies and is just a click away from a job anywhere in the world. We have to remember that actually niche players are those who can adapt themselves to new and extraordinary situations, and ready to produce highly personalized services.
ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE EXPRESSION
We present our Artist Residency Program, the first in its kind in the Upper Mesopotamian Region! We call for applications by emerging fine arts artists to Urfa where the light, colours and sounds will take you to a time immemorial. 

Artist residencies are universally designed to increase artist mobility to boost creativity and feed interactions and cooperation between creative minds all around the world. This is also a prestigious medium to present regional assets through creative art works.

To host local and international artists in a residency program, and encourage their creativity is undoubtedly the more meaningful way to invest in culture. It is a way for refugee and host community to express or communicate their feelings in this challenging period. This kind of cultural activity will raise much attention in the media, conventional and social, through which the city may present its riches to the world. Through an open call, we target emerging artists and art students from Turkey and abroad.

The candidates to the residency from various disciplines of art such as painting, photography, video, and digital arts will be selected by a renown jury. Those who will be selected will be provided with one month long residence to produce art. The outcome of the residency will be celebrated with an exhibition in Urfa and if possible in İstanbul.
LOCAL PRODUCTS GLOBAL MARKETS
Growing locally, marketing globally is the motto of the new digital age. In Urfa region where high quality agricultural raw materials are abundant, there is only one more step to take: To add value through creative industries and sold globally. 

Urfa is known for its fertile, vast, agricultural land. Local produce that grow there is diverse and equally delicious, starting from the unique agricultural products like the 'must have' of every Urfa dish, -the 'isot' pepper- to the surprisingly equilibrated olive oil. Moreover, there is an abundance of agricultural products much in demand for the industrial use, such as the high quality cotton and wool.

The Coronavirus outbreak has shown us how much we rely on local produce. Supported by our current times, our organisation is devoted to supporting the local markets and producing value-added products that may be branded and sold worldwide when possible through digital marketing -a key sector for the economic development of disadvantageous regions-.

We believe Urfa would benefit vastly from a circular economy,; produced and designed locally and marketed globally. Imagine that the local cotton transformed into high quality designer's fabric and clothing instead of being sold as raw material.
There are many ways you can  get involved and support us. First, you can share our story with others, or you can help us by offering your skills and network. We are always looking for help in solving the myriad of problems we face in the field.

And finally you can volunteer with us. Volunteering takes the form of a systematic contribution, either from your home or by physically working in our projects  in Şanlıurfa. If you are interested in volunteering, please send us a short message with your motivation and brief mention of skills you want to offer.

You can chose to stay in touch with us by leaving your contact details. We don't share your details with anyone. You will receive an occasional update about our activities.

  • Camikebir, Eyyübiye/Şanlıurfa, Türkiye
Building Markets Event Ankara/August 2022

Building Markets Event Ankara/August 2022

The findings of Köprü's recent report "Syrian Impact in the Creative Industries in Türkiye" were presented at Building Markets event in Ankara.

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Photographer Alisa Sibirskaya                                    in Köprü Residency/Şanlıurfa

Photographer Alisa Sibirskaya in Köprü Residency/Şanlıurfa

Alisa Sibirskaya participated in Köprü's artist residency program in Şanlıurfa in October . She held a workshop at the end of her residency.

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