Archives for January 2023

MSC Teacher Sema Demirkan Opens School of Compassion in Turkey

Sema Demirkan is a certified MSC teacher and founder of the School of Compassion (SoC), the first and only self-compassion & compassion educational center in Turkey.

School of Compassion is working for a more accurate understanding and dissemination of self-compassion and compassion, as well as a more compassionate culture in Turkey. Not only does SoC deliver compassion and self-compassion trainings open to the general public, the also have social initiatives for education and health industries and collaborate with NGOs (non-government organizations) to help support their local community. 

Professor Ayten Zara, Founder of WHR and Certified MSC Teacher Sema Demirkan, Founder of the School of Compassion, Turkey at the opening of. the Ağrı Diyadin Mutlu Primary School.

One of the NGOs they partner with is the
World Human Relief Organisation. WHR is a non-profit, civil society organization founded in Turkey by Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Bilgi University and friend of Sema’s, Ayten Zara. With the belief that all forms of poverty and violence can be overcome with education, WHR raises awareness of the society against violence and trauma, builds a common conscience, and strengthens the individual and society with sustainable education, agriculture, development, and life projects in disadvantaged areas. They carry out solutions-oriented works based on sharing, solidarity, and cooperation in a multi-disciplinary framework. 

Sema Demirkan (in beige turtleneck on left) with students of the Ağrı Diyadin Mutlu Primary School and WHR Leaders in front of their new school building in Ağrı Diyadin Mountain Village, Turkey.

In 2021, to support the Ağrı Diyadin Mutlu Primary School Project funded by WHR, Sema designed and taught an education program based on self-compassion named “Awakening of the Heart”  open to the general public. Every stage of “Awakening of the Heart” was carried out on a volunteer basis by the School of Compassion participants and the local community. People volunteered their time to coordinate social media communications and public relations, run the registration process, do administrative work, and ultimately bonded through a common purpose and compassion project. This donation-based self-compassion program reached nearly 1,000 people and all income that was obtained through this education series was donated to WHR for the Ağrı Diyadin Mutlu Primary School building construction.

Community members, School of Compassion and WHR volunteers helping to build the Ağrı Diyadin Mutlu Primary School school.

WHR established a school, library, and informatics room in Ağrı Diyadin Mutlu Village that has touched the lives of hundreds of children, women, and families. The village of Diyadin, where the new school building is located is a very difficult geography with a harsh mountainous climate. Most of the people settling in this area live on incomes below the poverty line, making their living from agriculture and animal husbandry. The children have been deprived of an education and have worked alongside adults. Girls have stayed out of the education system due to terrorism, difficulty of the transportation to the district, not being sent to boarding school, and early marriages. School of Compassion and WHR are changing these circumstances for the better.

What School of Compassion and WHR did is not only about building a school and educating a remote mountain village community. This partnership touches all the people residing there with respect and compassion. In addition, the surrounding 21 villages will also benefit from this school and the sustainable development projects that were done there.

Sema Demirkan with the Ağrı Diyadın Mutlu Primary School Students at the opening ceremony

Sema shares, 

“Our School of Compassion often provides free training to local NGO staff as many of them are suffering from burnout and stress. NGO staff often feel overwhelmed by the daily suffering they are exposed to as they serve refugees, underprivileged children and women experiencing domestic violence. This collaborative work is helping build community in Turkey.

“We partner with WHR to create a vocational channel for our graduates to contribute to compassionate activism projects through their financial and/or non-financial resources.

“We gather our graduates on a monthly basis for compassion practice and since 2020 we have planted more than 2,000 trees with donations and created a little compassion forest.

“School of Compassion was built with the common conscience of hundreds of people from all over the world who believe and trust in a ‘peaceful humanity,’ creating hope from deprivation and poverty. We are so happy and grateful to be a part of this work. We feel in our hearts the words of Thich Nhat Hanh: ‘Compassion is a verb.’”

Sema’s work is a beautiful example of how self-compassion can manifest as compassionate action in the world.

Learn more about Sema and the School of Self-Compassion.

A Personal Message from New CMSC Executive Director Elijah Zimmerman

“Leading CMSC feels like a homecoming into open curiosity and collective acceptance of the present moment. I’m excited to meet everyone who belongs to this vibrant community.” – Elijah Zimmerman

Hello, Everyone!

I’m Elijah Zimmerman, a conscious leader, educator, and collaborator with life experiences as a queer, trans man. I live in unceded Lekwungen Territory, also known as Victoria, British Columbia. I’m originally from the territory of the Mdewakanton, also known as Central Minnesota, from a mixed white European background of farmers and community stewards. My career follows a trajectory of system change and collaboration towards equity and justice in higher education and the non-profit social sector. Mindfulness and compassion are central to my life and professional practices as I hold a deep commitment to all beings finding happiness and freedom from suffering.

I hold a Ph.D. in Communication Studies emphasizing storytelling, culture, and consciousness-raising. I worked eight years at the university level developing curriculum for communication courses, including leadership, intercultural communication, and group skills. I also have professional training in interfaith studies with a value of embracing different ways of making meaning and belonging. 

As an executive director, I’ve led organizations delivering service and education. I worked in the subarctic at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre where environmental challenges required continual strategic response, tight teamwork, and appreciation for the solitude of nature. With the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, I led organizational change to meet community needs by shifting services and programs to be more culturally safe and relevant for those most impacted by violence. Through relationship building, I gained a deeper understanding of allyship and the importance of collective healing.

Leading CMSC feels like a homecoming into open curiosity and collective acceptance of the present moment. I’m excited to meet everyone who belongs to this vibrant community. I’m bringing a vision of stability, sustainability, and joy anchored in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging for CMSC programs and everyone involved in mindful self-compassion. Working together to alleviate human suffering and improve the collective well-being of the planet through the practice of self-compassion is a critically important and tender task. I’m grateful to join you in this journey of interconnection and heart.