The adventure and celebrations following the big prize

In my previous article, I wrote about how for the first time in Global Foodbanking Network (GFN) history, we won the Innovation Award, which was organised for the first time. This week however, I wanted to share how the awards has reflected our happiness and the aftermath of the victory, which I may add, does not compare to any action film.

A reminder of the moment the award was announced:


As you can see in this video, as I wasn’t expecting a win, I was not showing any reaction at the start. I do comprehend the situation once I take the award into my hands. After this moment, all the food bankers’ executives congratulated me one by one. Before even realising what was happening exactly, I found myself in the centre of a celebration. Everyone was coming up to me one by one saying “let’s take a photo with the champion”. Some food bankers were even bombarding me with such questions “can we obtain further information from you?”

I found myself in the middle of an unplanned dream. In between the celebration, I sent a message to the Tider volunteers Whatsapp group to advise them of our win. Thinking it was late in Turkey and everyone must be asleep, I received 3-4 messages at once, replying ‘I woke up from the incoming messages’. Although it was the late hours in Turkey, the messages coming through continued to increase. Based on my perception, no one expected us to win this award. I had therefore instigated much excitement through the Whatsapp channel.

After we took s group photo with the Asian and Latin American participants, we got on the bus. Then what? I realised I had forgotten the cardholder that was holding all my credit cards. I quickly requested the already moving bus to kindly stop and ran into the Houston Foodbank to get my card holder which was there where we were taking the photos. Again, in a rushed manner, I ran to the bus. Meanwhile, all the participants were watching me at this stage. As I was getting back on the bus, in an embarrassed way, I apologised but the food bankers who watched me running from the start to the end, greeted me with much laughter. The feeling of panic quickly converted back to joy. During the ride, I continued to have some pleasant conversations.

Dodging a flying truck

Afterwards, we arrived at the hotel. I got my luggage and rested for half hour, chatted with friends in the lobby and then got into a taxi to make way to the airport. An interesting thing happened in the taxi. I was chatting with the Ethiopian driver. With the classic Serhan attitude, I dug so many holes about Ethiopia; I asked him questions from why he preferred to come to America to the future of Africa. I listened to his very interesting life story. Then there was a bit of silence. While I was reading my messages, knowing he was about to miss the freeway exit, the driver tried to make a sharp move into the right lane. A truck that didn’t give us way coming from the side lane at top speed, sped right past us. As he was going top speed, the trailer attached to him was swaying left to right. St that moment, within seconds we avoided a very big accident. While going top speed on a Houston freeway, we were almost going to end up under the trucks trailer. As I saw the accident coming, I screamed out ‘be careful, we’re going to end up under the truck’ to the driver. Only once I screamed did the driver bounce back and realise the trailer coming towards us, and with this, made a sudden move to the left and we got away with only a lost right side mirror. By the way, I was sitting on the right side of the car. So you can imagine, if we did end up under the truck, the trailer would have first hit the side I was sitting on and as predicted, the right side would have been written off. God saved us! The mirror had completely fallen off the car. Afterwards there was a different kind of excitement to trying to enter the right lane without a mirror. I asked him “are you aware we just avoided a huge accident?” “Yes, I’m aware. We were saved thanks to that” pointing to the huge crucifix on the front side of the vehicle. To that I wasn’t going to anymore say ‘if it wasn’t for my screams, we would have been under the truck now’. I just wanted to arrive safe and sound to the airport. The other things were not important.

At that point of time, I smiled as I remembered the things I experienced the night before which were also a matter of life and death. A night before, after the conference had finished, we went to the Rodeo with friends whom I formed close bonds with, those being old bankers from Australia, South Africa, England, Mexico and an American friend who works at GFN (as told in jokes, everyone is from a different country). Rodeo was actually infact a place in a big theme park. In this park, there were shows of crazy rodeo men trying to get up on the bull without falling. In the other areas, there were features of a classic Luna Park; stalls, hamburger and sausage sandwich stands, including places that sold junk food too. As we got in line altogether to eat something from all these different fast food restaurants, we lost each other (I preferred a hamburger). We came across each other again and altogether went to listen to live music and have some things to drink. After containing heated conversations from the night before, a local woman from Houston joined our conversation from the next tables. This is a selfie taken at the entry of the Rodeo:

From left to right: Me, Kate from South Africa, David from Mexico, Brianna from Australia, David from the United States and William from England


A total panic of disaster

While speaking about the Houston culture with her, suddenly from behind us came loud screams from a flood of people. Someone from our group who couldn’t quite turn around called out “what’s happening?”. A girl who was running amongst them with a big panic on he face, in a big cry said ‘a fight has broken out, someone is firing’ as she ran away quickly. At that moment I thought ‘where is this fit happening, there’s no gunshot sounds’ and I got up to try and pinpoint the area. When I turned around, I realised half of the people in our group had gone. I only had an English and American friend with me. They asked me “what should we do?” To that I answered with a question “where is everyone?”, “they suddenly disappeared” they said. To this I replied “we may as well go towards the door. We will wait in a designated meeting point and take it from there”. To much opposite reaction to the runners, we were calmly walking towards the entrance. It didn’t seem like there was a threat around us. It must have been a falsely caused panic.

As we were walking towards the entrance, our English friend wanted to buy a hat. In a calm way, we walked over to the half opened stall located on the side of the road. We waited in front of the store while they were buying s hat and then waited next to the statue near the entrance for 10 minutes, while waiting for the remained of the group to arrive. There was no on in sight. We also couldn’t reach anyone by phone. All the lines were locked. After 10 minutes I said “c’mon lets go, they’ve most likely gone back too”. Altogether we walked out to the outside of the Rodeo area. At this stage, it was like the world was coming to an end. We felt like we were in a Hollywood action movie in this theme park. Most likely, it was an incorrectly made alarm which resulted in security, police cars, helicopters circling in the air and people chanting and screaming loudly within our vicinity. Us, on the other hand, walked calmly to the petrol station on the corner, and ordered a Uber to take us back to the hotel. The other friends had long before arrived at the hotel, and were sitting at the bar. You can imagine the small talk we made with them once we cam together. My first reaction was “how did you manage to disappear as soon as I turned my head?”, to that our South African friend responded “actually how did someone like you show such slow reaction?”. To that I said “I believe there wasn’t a gun inflicted conflict. People panicked for no reason. If I believed there was a fight around us, trust me, I’d be the first to show reaction”. Off course, there was a lot of joking around throughout the night. My Houston trip was definitely going rather interestingly.

A photo I took right after I left the Rodeo. Everyone that came to the Rodeo was making much effort to quickly leave the area with their cars


Being welcomed like a footballer

While I was thinking about all of this in the taxi, we arrived at the airport. Once all the check-in procedures were completed, I rang my friends in America while sitting in the airport foyer. Due to the time differences, I couldn’t call Turkey. I just sent some messages. Our Tider volunteers had already let themselves go. Not worrying about the time differences, they continued to write. While I was talking about the importance of the award, I put into writing what I was thinking at that point ‘this award is so important on an international level, that if I was a footballer, I’d be greeted on the shoulders of people at the airport’.

After a comfortable ride, I arrived to the homeland. Having a direct flight from Houston to Istanbul is really a fantastic possibility.

The things I said before I got on the plane, was taken seriously by our team who showed up at the airport to welcome me, which gave me a great level of happiness. From the minute I walked out, I saw the Tider professionals Selen, Duygu, Selin and our board member Nigar, waiting on the right hand side. I quickly went over to them and handed them the award and the award certificate. With that excitement, we took a photo:

From left to right: Selin, Duygu, Me, Nigar and Selen


Afterwards, when getting ready to say goodbye to our friends, I copped a hint ‘aren’t we going to celebrate this?’. They weren’t telling me this first hand, but I realised they really wanted to celebrate this. I said “c’mon lets go to a fish restaurant from here’c I wasn’t sure of the area near the airport much but I knew that once before I’d eaten fish and was white satisfied from the Polat Renaissance Hotel, which came to my mind. Altogether, we went l this fish restaurant. During a pleasant raki-fish conversation, I told them, about the things that I experiences in America, and what we need to do from here onwards. After our mini celebration, I left to go home,

As I was going home, my doctor friend Macit called “c’mon lets go out tonight”. I was tired from the journey but somehow I had energy. I thought I may as well go out and continue to celebrate this with Macit. After I went home and got ready, together we went to Soho House. We enjoyed the pleasure of the award there too. The weekend had come and the celebration messages continued to keep coming. After the FBLI event in Houston, a few days after, GFN made an official announcement:

The week after, I met with Jale Özgentürk from Hurriyet to share the award news. Miss Jale shared this piece in her writing column:

Meanwhile, on Thursday 23rd of March, we came together with all our stakeholders to celebrate together the award we received from the Support Market. I briefly explained the story behind the award and thanked everyone from the bottom of my heart. Everyone was really happy. Ultimately, everyone had a share in this award, we were able to produce some color filled shots:

I would like to thank the founder of Adim Adim for taking this photo and sharing it with us

A photo taken while sharing the video with our participants

A shot of all our hearts coming together. Thank you to everyone!


A reflection of pride on my face


And this is the video which was prepared about the event:


By this means, we are kindly inviting everyone to the concert in support of Tider by Harun Kolçak, on Sunday the 9th of April. We will be expecting you.


Also last week, we receive many messaged of support from the Adim Adim platform, which I absolutely thanked everyone. I’d like to share the email I wrote here with you:

“Since last week, we received congratulatory and lovely messages from various channels (email, social media, Whatsapp, SMS etc), which we sincerely thank you for. Another special thank you goes to Kivanç (Adim Adim term president) and Itir (founder of Adim Adim) who didn’t for a moment leave our side last Thursday and for joining our celebration and for sharing things for us on social media.

Universal values and service to humanity

Whether it be by media or via other stakeholders, in all my meetings, I tried to convey this message:

For a program that started in Turkey that has earned a international qualification was actually a first. The Support Project started has the main criteria and aim for sustainability. That’s why  job acquirement and waste management are the focal points of this project.

Just like providing food and basic necessities and support to people in need doesn’t remove the entire problem, quite the opposite, it can increase it. For this reason, a food banking award won by a HR supported project shows that social assistance systems can actually change which is a revolutionary attribute. For this change to come about from Turkey, gives us that extra honour and source of happiness.

As I was sending messages to everyone, I was able to evaluate what I have done in the past and what I will do from here onwards. For a long time I have been making a lot of compromises to seriously make some effort. To be able to reap the rewards of these in all areas was seriously making me happy, from this perspective; the Houston trip was a serious source of motivation for me.

For me, it’s not right if the things I find myself doing do not carry international attributes or are not configured to serve humanity, which are my main missions.

All the economic and social initiatives I have started, must possess universal values for the development of humanity and prosperity levels to increase, which we will do everything in our will to continue together. Continue to follow us…

The 2017 GFN Innovation Award

The GFN Innovation Award Certificate


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