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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.