[email protected]

September 18, 2012, Tuesday

Children helping children

In preparation for a talk that I will be giving soon, I have been thinking a lot about how to make the world a better place. I would love to hear from Today’s Zaman readers on your ideas about this -- what do you think helps to make the world a better place?

Just this week I was told about a young girl, Egem Yorulmaz, who is doing something to make a difference. She decided to do something to help children who suffer from leukemia. I’d like to share her story because I believe that when children are taught at home and in school how to help the less fortunate, that is the beginning of trying to make the world a better place to live in.

Yorulmaz set herself the following goal: to read as many books as possible in a year until, when they are all stacked together, they reached her height (150 centimeters). In return, people would sponsor her reading to help her achieve her goal of raising $1,000, which would be donated to the Foundation for Children with Leukemia (LÖSEV).

It is important to encourage our young in any initiative which they take on with the goal of making the world a better place. To learn more about this special young lady, I asked her a few questions about herself and her reading project.

Can you briefly share what made you decide to do this project?

I wanted to do a campaign like this because I was deeply moved by a British friend of mine who had fought leukemia while I lived there. I could not imagine how my friend felt. While visiting England last summer, I learned a lot about fund-raising activities for various causes and charities like running a marathon, climbing mountains and the like. Then I remembered my friend. I knew that he had recovered, but there were a lot of children in Turkey just like him who were battling leukemia. So I decided to raise funds for children battling leukemia in Turkey and to show everyone the lovely faces and hair behind the [surgical] masks [which leukemia patients in Turkey are always seen wearing].

Why and how did you decide to choose this particular cause?

LÖSEV is a Turkish foundation that helps children battling leukemia by giving them treatment at their specially built Hospital for Children with Leukemia (LÖSANTE), as well as providing them with an education at the LÖSEV Primary School during their treatment so that the children don’t miss out on school. LÖSEV organizes various activities for ill children and their parents. They even go as far as distributing fuel and food to needy parents in winter. (See their website:

There are 10,880 children with leukemia registered with LÖSEV waiting for treatment and our support. Some of them are in the Black Sea region, which has seen a huge increase in the number of leukemia cases since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine in 1986. I’m a great bookworm, so I decided to take up the challenge of reading as many books as I can in one year until they all reach my height. In return, people could donate money while I am reading to help me complete my challenge, and at the end all the money would be donated to LÖSEV.

I started my book reading challenge on my 11th birthday on Oct. 11, 2011 and I am near my target goal. I have just about reached the top of my head now. I just need to read one more book and I’ll be finished.

How has taking on this project changed your life?

Firstly, I got to meet a lot of different people. I saw that attempts that might seem small do make a difference and have an impact. I was touched by those who supported my project. It brought tears to my eyes. This opportunity gave me the chance to read a lot of wonderful books and help children with leukemia as well. I don’t think I will ever forget this project for the rest of my life.

Do you have another project in mind for the future?

I don’t know right now, but I would very much like to start campaigns for children’s rights. It is my dream to be a United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF] child ambassador. When I grow up I want to do something in the field of justice and become someone exciting, like a forensic scientist.

Well done, Egem! One child’s initiative, along with others, both adults and children who donated their pocket money, has helped to make a difference. To see Yorulmaz’s updates and photos, visit her gallery on:

Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: [email protected]

Previous articles of the columnist