Ahmad is a Psychology student at Middle East Technical University. He joined Istanbul&I in 2017 as the youngest volunteer in the NGO. He first co-managed the Storytelling Expeditions and soon after founded Istanbul&I’s first Book Club. In 2019, he co-founded Poetry Club, which he’s been managing since. In February 2021, he became Istanbul&I’s very first Newsletter Manager. This is his response to the question “Why do you volunteer in Istanbul&I?”:
Funny enough, I never really thought about this. Since I joined the NGO, volunteering came naturally, effortlessly. It wasn’t a question of whether I wanted to volunteer or why, but more of an instinct—a beautifully enigmatic instinct to help others in need. It was only then that I understood the essence of volunteering.
The wonderful atmosphere that Istanbul&I has is one of the things that motivated me to become an active volunteer and, later, a project manager of different projects. The first event I attended was Çaytalks, and I was a bold but extremely anxious teenager stepping out of my comfort zone. I was terrified and I expected to be rejected at the door, but I was surprised that I lasted the entire event without anyone excluding or ridiculing me. On the contrary, I was whole-heartedly accepted and embraced, regardless of my ridiculously young age and marginalized background. That was when I fell in love with Istanbul&I. The first volunteering event I joined, which was Iftar&Community, presented me with a different side of the community that was even more amazing. The amount of energy, kindness, and passion that volunteers brought with them every single day was so wonderful that I became dedicated to volunteering. I knew it was something I wanted to do for a long time.
Soon after, I was assigned to be a co-manager for Storytelling Expeditions, a recurring event in which we explored historical areas of Istanbul and spoke with the locals to learn more about Turkish culture and history. Later, I founded the first Istanbul&I Book Club, a place where people from different backgrounds and ideologies could come together and discuss books and ideas. It was a success and Istanbul&I helped me a lot in starting and maintaining this project. A year later, I co-founded the Poetry Club, an inclusive, safe space where people of different backgrounds, languages, and ideas could rekindle the art of poetry. Similarly, Istanbul&I members and volunteers supported me in starting this project under the organization and it wasn’t long before it turned into a beautifully close-knit community of friends who come together bi-weekly to convey their ideas and feelings through poetry. In early 2021, I took on the role of Istanbul&I’s first Newsletter Manager. Since then, I was able to build and lead a team of talented writers and we’ve been able to build a newsletter from the ground up, setting it up for years to come.
Honestly, after this journey of almost four years, I couldn’t be happier with my experience in the organization. I am yet to find an NGO or a community that could compete with Istanbul&I’s energy and impact. I could confidently say that I finally understand what they mean when they say Istanbul&I’s mission is “youth empowerment”, as I was a big example of that youth empowerment, and I am very proud of the projects and achievements I was able to accomplish with the guidance and support of Istanbul&I. Does this answer the question? I don’t know, but I’d say it’s a hell of a good answer!
Ahmad Alhasan – 28/3/21