Global Reach: Grantee Partners

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Sulukule Volunteers Association (SVA)


Sulukule is a neighborhood in the Fatih district of Istanbul, declared as an ‘urban renewal site’. Most of the destruction took place between 2006 and 2009, with minimal resettlement for existing residents (a majority of which are Roma). Families were displaced and uprooted, and many continue to live in partially destructed homes under terrible conditions. Those left completely homeless had to re-settle with relatives or move to nearby Karagümrük, an area with similar poverty levels. The greatest impact has been on women and children. A high number of children were forced to drop out of school and enrollment decreased dramatically. While specific data is not available for this district, according to a recent OECD report (2015), in Turkey, the overall estimated drop-out rate is 15% for primary school and 35% for secondary (middle) and high school. There are many challenges in the transition to high school. In 8th grade, students are required to take two exams. Those with low achievement scores either drop out completely or must enroll in a school with religious education. Drop out rates and challenges are significantly higher in neighborhoods such as Sulukule and others in the Fatih district. An additional important contextual development has been the increase in Syrian refugee settlement over the past 2-3 years ( the Fatih district is home to the 3rd largest population of refugees in Istanbul). There are now Syrian children also attending SVA programs. Tensions among ethnic communities exist as Roma perceive Syrians to have ‘taken their places’ in the community.


SVA was founded in 2010 as a part of the Sulukule Platform, created to advocate against destructive urban renewal projects that have negatively affected the community. SVA works with children (mainly Roma/Gypsy, Kurdish, Turkish and Syrian ages 6-16) living in poverty, who have a high school drop-out rate, and are exposed to violence at home and discrimination in schools due to their ethnic background. Its main activities include:

  • Supporting children under risk to access education and ensure their enrollment and continued education in school
  • Providing social-cultural activities to further develop their psychological well-being and social adaptation
  • Assisting school management, teachers, parents, students and public officials to prevent school drop out
  • Providing nutrition, stationery and financial educational support to children in need
  • Mobilizing university age youth volunteers who deliver the majority of programs

Current Grant:

EMpower’s 1st grant to SVA will support the delivery of a program for 36 vulnerable children (10-14 age group) to improve their physical and psycho-social well-being with the ultimate goal of ensuring continued enrollment/performance in school.

You can support our work with Sulukule Volunteers Association (SVA) and our other grantee partners.

Our Underwriters pay for all of our administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering at-risk youth.