Good ReadsTurkish Canadian Community Raises Money for CHEO

Turkish Canadian Community Raises Money for CHEO

Turkish Canadian Community Raises Money for CHEO

On Saturday April 23, distinguished guests gathered to celebrate Turkish National Sovereignty and International Children’s day at a fundraising gala organized by the Council of Turkish Canadians (CTC), the proceeds of which were donated to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). The CTC has been organizing this commemorative event for the past seven years, and has raised $90,000 for CHEO in the process.

For those in Turkey and Turkish communities around the world, April 23 is a national and international holiday. It is a day to commemorate the first gathering of the Grand National Assembly, the first independent Turkish Parliament, established on April 23, 1920. The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kamal Atatürk, linked Turkish independence with honouring the children of Turkey to promote a message of peace and hope for the future in the wake of political turmoil.

Paintings up for auction at the gala.
Paintings up for auction at the gala.

In 1920, the establishment of the Grand National Assembly in Ankara, the current capital of Turkey, as opposed to Istanbul, the previous capital of the Ottoman Empire, was more than a change in geography. This day symbolizes the freedom to choose values such as democracy, equality and secularism, according to Murat Saatcioglu, a distinguished professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Ottawa, a volunteer for the CTC, and a guest at the Children’s Day gala.

In Turkey, on April 23, children from around the world are invited as guests into Turkish homes to celebrate international peace and friendship, and to participate in opening parliament as an international assembly of children. The goal is to promote fraternity and friendship no matter what nation of origin.

an Akkaya holding a painting by Hikmet Çetinkaya he bought at the auction.
an Akkaya holding a painting by Hikmet Çetinkaya he bought at the auction.

In Ottawa, the Turkish Ambassador Selcuk Ünal was present at the gala with his wife and young daughter. It was the third event celebrating April 23 the Ambassador had attended that day. He reiterated the message of peace and hope expressed at the gala, a message he said that resounds throughout all the Turkish diaspora in the world on International Children’s Day. The Ambassador also mentioned that there were celebrations happening all over Canada, in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton.

The gala in Ottawa started off with a silent auction of gifts donated by guests and well-wishers. There was also a separate auction after dinner of paintings donated by well-known Turkish painters. Hikmet Çetinkaya has been dubbed “the poppy man,” due to his many paintings of the famous red flowers, paintings that have been featured all around Canada, including the Canadian War Museum. Mine Burak is a painter and ceramic artist that lives in Turkey, but who lived in Ottawa during the 1980s. Both their paintings garnered generous bids by guests at the gala.

Group at the gala.
Group at the gala.

Due to the generosity of all those involved, the International Children’s Day gala raised an estimated $10,000 this year for CHEO.

Kevser Taymaz, founding president of the CTC and organizer of the gala, came to Canada from Turkey in 1967. She has been a vibrant and integral part of the Turkish-Canadian community here in Ottawa, and has been working with the CTC since 1973, putting into practice the Turkish anthem, “peace at home, peace abroad.”

“This gala means we’re doing something good for Canada, something good for the children,” said Taymaz. “We’re coming together to help contribute to Canada while still remembering our roots by teaching our children positive things about our history.”

Turkish and Canadian flag.
Turkish and Canadian flag.

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