A single salve for three wounds: Support Project (2)

In last week’s blog I dealt with the issue of waste, one of the three major social problems on which the Basic Needs Association (TİDER) focuses its efforts to create solutions (the other two being poverty and unemployment). In this piece, I will be talking about the Support Market, which provides aid in a dignified way to families who lack the wherewithal to cater even for their basic needs.

I explained in my previous article why the Support Project was important, and in so doing highlighted the following points:

  1. It’s the most serious and systematic program undertaken in the prevention of waste.
  2. It gives those in need the chance to shop for basic necessities such as food, cleaning products and clothing at a high-standard market, and to shop with dignity.
  3. Most importantly, the association’s primary mission is to provide for people to stand on their own two feet. It achieves this through an employment provision scheme run in the cities by Support Human Resources (TİDER will be operating rural development projects in areas outside the city after Yırca, a finished project that has now been turned over).

Last time around my theme was the issue of waste, one of the areas where the Support Project provides a remedy. I also wrote about the kind of methodology applied in order to achieve waste reduction.

In this piece, I will be filling you in on our aid in kind. But let me start with a memory.

Towards the end of last year, Nestle made us a donation of 90,000 chocolate bars. We had, of course, to be sure that this fabulous donation was consumed fast, so putting the chocolate bars in the Support Market just wasn’t an option. We made a quick decision, got onto the Maltepe Local Education Authority and contacted the more than 90 schools in the Maltepe district. We then distributed the chocolate to these schools, determining quantities by the size of the establishment. Within a week, all the chocolate had been consumed.

I went along to supervise at two schools during the distribution process. At one of them, the head teacher invited us into his office before we began work. I gave him my business card. He took a look and after reading the information on my card (Serhan Süzer,  CEO, Basic Needs Association [TİDER]), the head teacher began a conversation, which went something like this:

  • Hmm, Basic Needs Association, huh? What are these “basic needs”?
  • (I said to myself, “Uh-oh, we’re heading for dangerous ground here. Best if I put the ball back in his court.”) What would you say?
  • I’d say a house, a car, that kind of thing.
  • As far as we’re concerned, there are more basic needs that take precedence over houses and cars: Food, clothing, heating and cleaning products, for example. In fact, the most basic need here is for people to be able to stand on their own two feet and start being productive. We also have employment programs to take care of that.
  • Interesting. This is the first time I’ve heard of your association.
  • It won’t be the last either. We’ll carry on doing everything we can for the country.
  • Good. I look forward to seeing the results.


Free heating and electricity support on the way...

After tea in the head teacher’s office, we went down to the kids and handed out the chocolate bars one by one. It’s impossible to describe the look of delight on the kids’ faces as they devoured their delicious chocolate. Just seeing them made me happy.

At present, we distribute food, cleaning products and clothing at the Support Market. A little further down the line we will also start providing heating support. And, of course, with me working professionally in the renewable energy sector, we plan to take electricity to the homes of those in need for no charge. To do this, we’ll be setting up a micro SPP (solar power plant). I wanted to share that piece of good news with you right away.

Let’s now remind ourselves how the system works:

The Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation (SYDV) affiliated to the Maltepe District Governor’s Office identifies those in need within the district boundaries. People who approach the foundation for assistance are paid a visit and assessed on the basis of the foundation’s criteria (for example, how many family members are in employment, does anyone in the household work, does the family own a home or car, etc.). Taking into account the needs of the household (how many people live there, etc), the family is then allocated a limit.

As a general rule, women are chosen to represent the family and their contact details are taken. The family representative is then sent an SMS text message, which tells them, for the sake of example:

“This month you have a TL 150 limit at the Support Market.”

The named family representative then comes to the Support Market and presents the cashier with their cell phone and ID card (or more specifically, the citizenship number on the card). After matching these details with the system and locating the family record, the cashier tells the family representative: ‘Go right ahead, Madam/Sir. You can start shopping. You have a 150 lira limit. But before you start, could you just call by first at our Human Resources desk.’


Different shots of the Support Market.


Having stopped at the Human Resources desk right by the cash desk, the family pick out whatever products they need from the market and fill their basket just like on any normal shop. The sum of their purchases - say a packet of rice for TL 2 and another of pasta for TL 3 - is then deducted from their TL 150 limit.

Regular cash isn’t accepted at the Support Market because shopping is based on a “closed currency” system. We talk among ourselves about the TL (TİDER lira). If you’d like to find out more about what I have outlined here, I recommend that you take a look at our association web site. Here’s the link: http://www.tider.org/destek-market.

We know that the Support Market is a success and that its standards are high because every now and then we have regular consumers come in off the street wanting to shop. We politely turn them away, telling them that the Support Market isn’t actually the kind of supermarket they are familiar with and that it operates exclusively to help those in need.


Impartial, transparent, honest and sustainable
One of the things we get asked most is whether those in need are correctly identified. I should point out here that the Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation (SYDV) affiliated to the Maltepe District Governor’s Office does a great job. To date, we’ve ascertained only 2-3 cases of comfortably off families among the more than 4000 who have received assistance from us. We’ve had people turn up by car to shop, for example. We notified the SYDV right away and had the family de-listed. Occasionally there have been instances of people cheating the foundation, most obviously by showing not their real house, but somewhere derelict and tumbledown. In situations like that, we, the Basic Needs Association, are the guarantors. Whenever we identify the slightest wrongdoing, we step in right away and take the required action. What matters to us is that aid in kind is given to those genuinely in need in an impartial, transparent, honest and sustainable manner.

We say impartial because as far as we’re concerned it doesn’t matter in the slightest where a needy person comes from, what their faith is or how they identify. A person is a person; and what matters is meeting the basic needs of the needy in a dignified manner.

Let me answer another frequently asked question. Yes, we do help Syrians. Syrians registered with the Maltepe District Governor’s Office make up around 10 % of all the people we help. This percentage will probably be higher in other districts.

Transparency is likewise a principle we prize. We can call up at the drop of a hat every single product purchased by any one person in need. Our accounts are clear and transparent. We’re therefore proud to be a signed-up member of Açık Açık, an independent platform that sets out to match donors with transparent and accountable foundations and associations. For further details of our association, check out the following link: https://acikacik.org/sivil-toplum-kurulusu/tider.

Honesty, too, is a principle we emphasize all the time to our personnel. We do everything in our power to build an honest relationship with people in need and all the institutions and organizations who support us. To our way of thinking, trust is the basis for everything, and this in turn makes honesty imperative.

Last but not least, all of our modeling is sustainable. We do our utmost to ensure that both the utilization of the donations we receive and the work we do on providing employment are sustainable, in other words uninterrupted and self-perpetuating.

Finally, my heartfelt thanks go to all institutions and organizations who have supported us in the past, support us now and will continue to support us in future. I’d like to share their names with you here:

From the private sector: Carrefour, Cargill, Barilla, Nestle, Evyap, Unilever, Omsan, Kellog’s, Komşufırın, Modelez, Sodexo, Tafe, Banvit, Gen3 Creative,g2m, Metro, EkoRE, Moka and EkoCC;

From the public sector and NGOs: Maltepe District Governor’s Office, TÜROB (Hotel Association of Turkey), İncivak (Cevdet İnci Education Foundation), GFN (Global FoodBanking Network) and FEBA (European Federation of Food Banks).

If it weren’t for their support, thousands of people would have gone without our help. Very many thanks to you all.

An important message for anyone who wants to join us in the Istanbul Marathon: we’re now into the final week of registrations.

We now have more than 170 backers in the Istanbul Marathon. Cargill, Net Holding, Procat, EkoRE and EkoCC are our corporate backers.


A sample of the corporate shoot we did with Procat for the Adım Adım (Step by Step) Platform.


Do you want to take part in the Istanbul Marathon and support our campaign?


A picture taken with our supporters after a training session at the Adım Adım event in Maçka. Everyone is super-motivated. Thanks to them all for standing by us.


I wrote previously that the deadline to register for the Istanbul Marathon had been extended to 15th October. Anyone who wants to support us should first register at http://www.istanbulmarathon.org, then go into the Run for Charity (İPK) Platform and seIect TİDER. We’re into the final week of registrations, so if anyone out there is still interested, please hurry. Let me take this opportunity to share the “Dare to Run” video posted by Mercan, our cutest supporter on the marathon. You’ll find it here:


In my next blog, I’ll be talking about the most critical wound our salve is healing: Unemployment. To put it another way, creating the means for people to stand on their own two feet and not be dependent upon anyone or anything, including the Support Market. This is our association’s primary mission.


Take good care of yourselves...



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