Maya Foundation plants KoruMaya in the city of Urfa in Southeastern Turkey. A public space. A plantation in the city. A social architecture designed for the people of Eyyübiye.
KoruMaya is the brainchild of Maya Vakfi
[Vakfi means Foundation in Turkish]. Since 2014, Maya Foundation has brought mental health, psychosocial services, child protection and educational support to traumatized populations in Turkey. Today, the foundation aims to build unity and long-term social impact by investing in children and youth’s mental, physical and academic development. KoruMaya will organically grow along the needs of the local community. Made of adobe, raw concrete, stones, rammed earth, KoruMaya will be the cradle where change happens.
Maya Vakfi was founded by Esra Özsüer and her son Emir. Maya Vakfi wasn’t imagined from a Silicon Valley garage. It started in a teen’s bedroom. When Emir 16, saw a Syrian boy approaching his mother’s car to wash the windshield, he said, “Mom, let’s do something together for them.”
And so, in 2014, mother and son launched Maya Vakfi. At the time Dena O’Connor, International Development Director, was giving Emir English lessons. Dena recalls the first years: “It was very organic. We would identify the needs as they came in and match up our responses like a start-up in a way. Emir had a nurturing environment, there was a collective action between him and his mother. I watched Esra, the family woman of three kids, sharing her nurturing skillsets with a wider community in distress. She was full on, motherly, and it was a transformative experience for them and for her.”
Soon after, American-Turkish Clinical Psychologist Leyla Akca came on board. Leyla brought in her skills in psychology and visual arts. She had graduated in Art Therapy and joined the team for the rehabilitation of Syrian children suffering from trauma. With two psychotherapists, Seda S. Güney and Danny S. Lundmark, Leyla coauthored a chapter of the book Holding Hope Working Across Modalities in the Arts Therapy
. Describing their experience in combining art, music and dance movement therapy for the Project Lift Workshops they share the importance of consistency across therapeutic practices and disciplines.
“At the end of 2013 I moved to Turkey and that was after I got my licensing and since there isn't a lot of art therapists in Turkey. I was being called for different projects here and there and since I've worked with trauma specifically after the Sandy earthquake. One day I got a call from a friend who told me that somebody called her for a project to do with refugee children. And so, I got a phone call from Dena.”
– Leyla Akca, Supervisor & Advisor of MHPSS Programming at Maya Vakfı
At Maison Maya, the headquarters in Istanbul, the feel of a family house comes to mind once more. The office layout on two floors with a cantina and a meeting room, is overflown with framed kid drawings. The former headquarters of the family’s holding company was donated to Maya Foundation. At the start, only five people worked in the building. The work combustion was a mix of academic research backing fieldwork pragmatism and business-oriented problem solving. As the foundation grew, they established a child protection field office in Balat, an area of Istanbul. Today, Maya Foundation has responded to Covid-19 by providing online therapy and online capacity building trainings nationwide.
In 2014, Maya Vakfi Foundation responded to the Syrian refugee emergency with trauma informed services in Istanbul and later in the region of Urfa. The proven model envisioned by founder Esra Özsüer and her family has empowered children, families, teachers, school counsellors, schools, NGOS and civil society representatives that came in support of mental health and psychosocial services for trauma rehabilitation.
KoruMaya is building upon these achievements vision. In December 2018, when Esra met Urfa’s proactive governor, they explore ideas about how to support the local population by removing the barriers that stratify society. With KoruMaya, Esra Özsüer is creating a new platform. By providing youth a space to interact safely and learn, KoruMaya eliminates inequalities. Through its strong leadership and partnerships, KoruMaya is a destination for families wanting a better future, youth seeking opportunity, refugees fleeing terror and communities building resiliency. When they will thrive the whole region benefits building positive generational consequences and sustainable futures. Its architecture is designed for the post-Covid-19 society.
With leadership and coordination KoruMaya brings nature, connectiveness, and knowledge to form the pillars of a resilient society.
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