A young Turkish woman joined nine other youth leaders from around the world at the State Department Friday to be recognized for their “efforts as partners for peace and drivers of economic growth and opportunity”.
Ece Ciftci and her fellow recipients from Iraq, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Pakistan, Norway, South Africa, Panama and Tajikistan were chosen to receive the Emerging Young Leaders Award this year.
The winners were announced on April 5, and Ciftci was among the group that was honored at a ceremony on May 2 at the State Department.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency at the Turkish Embassy Residence in the U.S. capital, where she had been invited as an honored guest, Ciftci explained how she came to receive the award.
Embarking on the path of social responsibility at the age of 14, Ciftci said she became acutely aware that so many students lacked confidence and received very little social and emotional education in school.
"Apart from academic performance, what distinguishes us in the society we live in are our talents and personal qualities. We have to discover this so we can improve ourselves," said Ciftci, who is a founder and director of SosyalBen.
SosyalBen is a social responsibility association that helps children aged 7 to 13 that live in disadvantageous areas discover and improve their social skills.
Ciftci noted that SosyalBen originated in Istanbul and now involves a total of 350 volunteers at its 10 domestic and five foreign representative offices.
Ciftci said she and SosyalBen had contributed to the lives of 18,000 children in Turkey and were extremely happy about it.
She said some of the children were having difficulties accessing social activities because they were living in poverty in remote rural areas. In these cases, SosyalBen volunteers agreed to visit them to educate and entertain them.
Describing her first few years of delivering workshops in eastern Turkey for children, Ciftci said she started a student club to recruit volunteers to provide training to thousands of young people in the field of social responsibility.
Emphasizing the importance of the Emerging Young Leaders Award, Ciftci said it is to recognize the positive role that young people play in building sustainable peace.
"I am very happy to represent my country, the young women, and the work I do within the scope of this award," she said.
Describing the awardees as "emerging young people", she also said her responsibilities had increased and she wanted to carry out new projects.
The 10 recipients are in the U.S. until May 12 for an intensive program designed to expand their leadership capacities, strengthen their knowledge of management strategies in the non-profit, government and private sectors, learn and share best practices and broaden their networks of resources and support.