A single salve for three wounds: Support Project (3)

Over the past two weeks I have written about two of the three great societal ills the Basic Necessities Association has been focused on generating solutions for: the fights against waste and poverty. In this piece, I will outline our job placement programs conducted in line with the primary mission of the association, which is to help those in need stand on their own two feet. 

In my two previous blog posts (which you can find here http://serhansuzer.com/en/a-single-salve-for-three-wounds-support-project-1 and here http://serhansuzer.com/en/a-single-salve-for-three-wounds-support-project-2 I shared with you two of the important services provided by Support Project, which is comprised of Support Market and Support İK.

The first is about the prevention of waste. It facilitates the consumption of basic necessities such as foodstuffs and cleaning products before their final expiry dates by enabling producers and retailers to donate to Support Market their surplus products or their goods whose sell-by or use-by date will soon be reached. We also accept donations of second-hand clothing, which we clean and make available to those in need in the clothing section of our Support Market, with no credit limits.

The second is about enabling those in need to meet their basic needs -- such as food, cleaning products and clothing – by shopping in a dignified fashion in a supermarket that adheres to high standards.

A picture of the Support Market

What I have described above is extremely sensible and quite amazing, isn’t it? But is it enough?

We don’t think it is. Because we know that the only way social assistance and charity can become sustainable is to ensure that its beneficiaries do not become wholly dependent on the provider or donor.  In other words, constantly supplying those living on the poverty line with these products does not create a sustainable model. Some people might continue receiving this assistance even when they do not need it, because it is free. They can become ensnared in a culture of dependency. There is a group of these people in Turkey who have become accustomed to receiving constant assistance from municipalities, governorships and various government agencies and organizations. These people know what they would lose their dependent status were they to begin working in an official capacity. In Turkey, everyone who is officially employed is eligible for state healthcare through SGK and Bağkur, and does not receive assistance of the kind I have just described.

The advantages of working, made easy

I was in a quite newly opened Support Market outlet one day chatting with what appeared to be a healthy women in her fifties, who was waiting in the check-out line, when something occurred to me. We had the following conversation, which I initiated:

  • Are you pleased with the products you’re getting?
  • Yes. Yes, you’re giving us nice, good quality products. God bless you.
  • Thank you. We’re doing what we can to help. I’m sure one of friends here has told you this. We’re not aiming to provide you with products forever. What we really want is for you to get work and be able to buy your groceries at a normal supermarket.
  • That sounds good, but there’s no work to be had.
  • Yes there is. We intend to help you find a job.
  • Will I be registered with the SGK (state health care provider)?
  • Of course. You’ll be registered as soon as you’re officially working. Isn’t that great?
  • No, I don’t want that to happen. If I’m eligible for SGK they’ll cut off all my assistance.
  • But it’s really helpful to have SGK benefits. If something happened to you, God forbid, how would you be able to pay your medical costs?
  • I’d be fine. I’d pay it off with my own earnings.
  • Don’t say that. We’re talking about your health. In any case, what are you going to do if you aren’t working? Sitting at home all day, not producing anything, keeps you from reaching your potential. You know what they say about “idle hands…”  
  • I can find work as a cleaning lady.
  • Wouldn’t it better if we found you an official housekeeping position at a hotel? You never know what to expect when you clean strangers’ houses. And there’s no healthcare, because you’re off the books. You’d be working in a healthier, more hygienic environment at a hotel. And what’s more, you’d have the security of knowing you’d get healthcare if you ever got sick. Let’s do a quick cost-benefit analysis. Is it better to depend on various forms of assistance or to be hired officially?  

After jotting down a few figures, I was able to show her that she would earn more, as well as benefit from comprehensive healthcare, if she got a registered job. This is what I told her:

  • Do you see? It’s more advantageous in every way for you to work in housekeeping rather than as a cleaning lady. And you’d also get compensation if you lost your job for any reason. Cleaning ladies get nothing if they’re let go for some reason.
  • You’re right. So what should I do?
  • Have you told our staff the number of your family members, including you, who are able to work?
  • Yes, I have.
  • When our human resources department gets in touch with you, make sure you cooperate fully with them. In other words, we can help you only if you help us in finding a job for you and your family members who are fit to work.
  • Thank you, I will.
  • Take care.
  • Thank you. It was nice to meet you.
  • Same here. Have a good day.

The dialogue that takes place above doesn’t tell the whole picture. It is an undeniable fact that the social welfare system in Turkey is skewed, causing large numbers of society to become dependent on constant support, a situation that is in turn exploited by fringe groups and political parties. You can dismiss this by saying, “The buyer and the seller are both satisfied.” However, what I have just described can lead to catastrophic results. We all endured the attempted coup this past July 15th, for instance.

Our national malady: slipped discs!

The skewed system I refer to above has become so entrenched that my colleagues in human resources are hard pressed to deal with it. Some households have as many as four adults with slipped discs. It’s become the national disability of choice. It’s always a slipped disc that holds back otherwise able-bodied people from doing anything. Quite a large group of people are thus able to get by on assistance and charity, and have even made a life-style of it.

This is a fundamental problem. We believe that every able-bodied person should join the labor market. Naturally, we accord every sympathy and our deep respect to the elderly and the truly disabled. We will continue to offer them support, no matter what. But we also inform the able-bodied that the assistance we provide is meant to be temporary, and that our ultimate aim is to get people a job so they can stand on their own two feet.

We have also embraced a different model. Our main model is designed to ensure that everyone who comes to Support Market gets the temporary help they need until they are placed in a job and become self-sufficient, at which time they will stop coming to us for assistance. However, our door is always open to anyone who comes to us and says that they are managing to get by with help from neighbors or family and want nothing else but help in finding a job. The human resources department of Tider will do everything they can to place these people in a job.

How Destek İK works

In order for you to fully understand how our vocational training mechanism works, I’d like to summarize it once more:

The Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation affiliated to the Maltepe District Governor’s Office determines which district residents qualify for aid. They visit applicants and employ pre-determined criteria (for example, how many family members are employed, are any of the household members employed, does the family own a house or a car) to allocate a spending limit in line with the family’s level of need (number of household members, etc.).

Generally, the female representatives of the family are seIected and receive a text message, as follows:

 “This month, your Support Market spending limit is TL 150.”

The recipient of this text message shows their phone number and the ID number on their identity card to a cashier at the Support Market. After confirming that the information matches that in our system, the cashier tells the family representative: “Welcome, Sir/Madam. You can begin your shopping. Your spending limit is TL 150. But please stop by our Human Resources desk before you start shopping.”

The process continues at the Human Resources desk, where the family  representative is informed of the ways we can help him/her gain employment and the following questions are asked:

  1. How many family members live in your household?
  2. How many of you are able-bodied but unemployed?

Could you provide contact information for those family members?


An interview taking place at our Human Resources desk…

An example of job placement

After this brief interview, the family shops for their basic needs. In the following days, a human resources representative contacts each of the family members able to work. The following is an example of the kinds of the employment follow-up questions that are asked:

For example: “According to our records, there are 7 family members in your household and three of them are able to work: Ayşe, Ahmet and Mehmet. Could I speak to them?

After interviewing Ayşe: “You have superior communication skills. Would you like to work at a call center?”

Upon receiving Ayşe’s consent, she is referred to a Call Center company that is a member of the Call Center Association, and after some vocational training is given a job. 

After interviewing Ahmet: “You’re physically strong. Our research tells us that you do not have a criminal record. Would you be interested in working in security?”

Upon receiving Ahmet’s consent, Ahmet is given vocational training and begins working as a security guard at a hotel owned by a member of TÜROB (The Association of Turkish Hoteliers).

After interviewing Mehmet: “You’re skilled with your hands. A retailer with a chain of stores has a position for a butcher. Would you be interested?”

Upon receiving Mehmet’s consent: An international chain of stores that works with our association trains Mehmet and hires him as a butcher.

If all goes to plan, these three family members each gain employment. We then inform the family that since they are now able to provide for themselves they will no longer require assistance from us.


A photo of Ercan, who we helped with job placement. Once employed, he now works hard and is motivated to contribute to the national economy.


We don’t simply terminate our relationship with those we assist in finding employment. We keep track of them to see if they remain in employment and if they need anything. But our main objective is to ensure that these people no longer need us.

The Support İK mechanism is that simple and that effective. You can find more information about it at Tider’s website: http://www.tider.org/destek-ik

‘Grey collar’ and technology recruitment coming up...

We are speeding up our activities for Support Project, which is a salve for the most serious societal ill of all – unemployment. In order to conduct all of these activities, the commercial company we have set up for our association has received “Employment Office” certification from the state employment agency, İŞKUR. This enables us to receive a placement fee from companies with which we place employees. This revenue goes to our association to help fund social welfare activities. That is to say, rather than relying solely on donations to survive our association is able to generate its own revenue and to use this revenue to expand its operation and to help even more people.

In future, we will be engaging in other kinds of job placement activities. For example, we want to move beyond “blue collar” positions to enable many job seekers to find placement in a wide range of professions. We will be directing job seekers to “grey collar” professions that require special skills, such as operating a crane or working underwater. These career opportunities, which require serious training and special skills, are often overlooked. Finally, we aim to utilize technology to increase employment opportunities. I’ll provide more detailed information about this in a future blog post. 


Job placement interviews at our human resources department


Let me take this opportunity to provide some information about our “Step by Step” campaign:

It will soon be November 13th and registration for the Istanbul Marathon is closing on October 15th. If you’d like to support us by joining this sports event and have not yet registered, please go to http://www.istanbulmarathon.org/ to do so.

You can then create a profile at Step by Step’s “Run for Good” profile,  at http://ipk.adimadim.org/.

The final stage is to create a campaign at İPK for November 13th.  

To do so, enter your profile at  www.ipk.adimadim.org and click the “create a campaign” button. The procedure is as follows:

● First, seIect your project on the screen (Tider – Step by Step Project for New Support Market)

● If you are joining the run as part of a corporate team, seIect the name of your company, or create your own company name (For example: Cargill, etc.)

● List your running group here. (Not mandatory)

● Enter your goals in terms total donors and total donations.

● Write whatever you like in the “Why I’m running” section. You can update this section as desired.  

● Enter your marathon participant number (If you don’t know it or have forgotten, you can search for it at http://www.istanbulmarathon.org/ using your Turkish Identity Card number.

We are setting up a campaign but we are waiting until October 31th to ask for donations. Our friends with experience tell us that it is most effective to wait until two weeks before the run. Until then, we can keep busy informing others why we are running and sharing information on social media about our new Support Market project, using the following hashtags: #adimgibibiliyorum #iyilikpesindekos #adimadim

I also want to let you, our valued runners, know that we will be holding an event this coming Sunday at our Support Market in Maltepe so that you can see our operations up close and personal.

We will be meeting in the ballroom of our sponsor for Sunday’s event, Rotana Hotel, and we will then be getting acquainted, discussing the Step by Step campaign process and how we will collect donations, and having a tour of Support Market. At the Sunday meeting, we will also be distributing your Tider T-shirts for the run.

It would please me greatly if everyone could participate. Please don’t forget to let us know if you can attend!



Program Details

11.00 – 11.30 Getting Acquainted

11.30 – 11.45 Tider Presentation (General Secretary Yasemin Hanım and me)

11.45 – 12.15 Campaign and Donation Process Presentation (Pınar Erdem, who is in charge of Step by Step Tider NGO)

12.15 – 12.30 Questions and distribution of  T-shirts

12.30 – 13.30 Visit to Support Market

For directions to the hotel: http://http://tr.foursquare.com/v/arjan-by-rotana-otel/55310ca4498e39f686b332d9

If you don’t see you on Sunday, let’s meet again at my next blog post.

Stay well…


Following meetings in Caddebostan and Maçka, we held a briefing in Florya after a training run with the support of Step by Step volunteers and Tider supporters. It was a lot of fun, as you can see in the photos above. 

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