RC Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Creativity Office SDG 3: Health and Wellbeing Insight Day

Authors: Ayseli & Buse (Grade 11)

Some parts of this article are adapted from Bosphorus Chronicle Issue 3 of 2021.

Designed by Evrim Sude Con

As the RC Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Creativity Office, we organized the Insight Day of SDG 3 on December 11th, 2021. SDG 3 is the third sustainable development goal set by the United Nations, its focus is good health and wellbeing. Insight Day hosted a total of six speakers from various disciplines: Berna Köker Poljak, Filiz Telek, Lisa Collins, Itır Erhart and Bedriye Hülya.

In her talk, Aybike Oğuz, Head of Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Creativity Office, highlighted that diversity is what makes us changemakers. She explained the office, the mission and summarized the means of achieving that mission. She concluded her talk by saying “we are hoping today will be an opportunity for us to connect with each other and with ourselves.”

Then, Soykan Çağan Baş (RC’23) and Aslı Vural (RC’23) explained what SDG 3 is. Last year’s SDG challenge program was on SDG3: Climate action; this year, the theme is SDG 3: Health and Wellbeing. The aim of the Insight Day is to start a conversation on health and wellbeing while hosting speakers to open space for the RC community to analyze the issue from different perspectives and disciplines. Design questions of the insight day were, “How can we co-create a transdisciplinary understanding of good health and well-being?” and “Why and how do we need to take action?” The participants explored answers to these questions by listening to six speakers, following an interdisciplinary approach and digging deeper with students/faculty/staff in the breakout rooms.

The event started with Berna Köker Poljak’s talk, a death doula who prepares people mentally and physically to death. Poljak started her talk by asking the audience to imagine that they are dying in ten minutes. She asked the audience to visualize where they are and who they are with. “Death and birth are the only human acts that we cannot practice,” said Poljak. She also talked about her experiences with death and how they helped her choose the path that she is on right now. “I am of the nature to grow old, I am of the nature to be sick, I am of the nature to die”, recited Poljak from a Buddhist poem. Starting the conservation of good health and wellbeing with a death doula and a conservation of death, was not just a bold decision but was a good reminder to realize that this moment is all one has. How do we honor it?

File Telek took the floor next. She is a social artist, process designer, the author of the book “Women are Medicine”. A big focus of her talk was how the conversation around health and well-being is a political, systemic, and cultural matter that is too complex to be perceived independently from such matters. She also talked about her experience with “burnout”, which she defined as the disconnectedness with her inner resources and her healing process that made her realize that she has been on some kind of an autopilot for a while and has been doing everything bigger and better like the mainstream culture expected her to. Her speech, in addition to containing valuable insights, was a great reminder of reconnecting with one’s body and environment.

Lisa Collins, a yoga instructor, was next to talk about yoga, wellbeing, and one’s connection with their body. Lisa defined yoga as a practice in which a person learns how to place and develop their intention to become more aware and she highlighted that yoga is much more than the physical movements that are popular on Instagram but instead different ways of connecting with one’s body, whether through breathing exercises or meditation. She also mentioned the important “fabric” of our lives that consists of important elements which shape the way we live without our conscious understanding of them, namely patterns of thoughts, habits, and the way we move and connect to our bodies. Lisa believes that wellbeing comes from within and her talk was an encouragement for all to create time for ourselves to connect with our bodies and our inner world.

Our next guest speaker, Prof. Itır Erhart at Bilgi University works on various areas: gender, human rights, sports sociology, social movements, communication philosophy, and social entrepreneurship. She is the co-founder of Adım Adım and Açık Açık. She is also a Board member at Ashoka Turkey. She started her talk by examining the physical and mental health in daily life. Working, most of the time, is a highly isolated process that has tolls on health. Thus, everyone needs their unique ways of connecting to themselves and their bodies. She emphasized how health means different things for different individuals. For her, eating healthy meant not eating meat. She also shared her personal experience of anxiety and depression. She talked about her phase of denying her mental weaknesses. What worked for her and people around her was accepting and talking about the issue. Her exploration through mental health introduced her to a community with similar experiences. Adım Adım makes it easier for people to connect with themselves, others and nature. There are many nongovernmental organizations that they run for, which brings the community together for an even more meaningful cause.

The next speaker, Bedriye Hülya, is the founder of B-fit, which is a gym for women. She talked about her journey of mental health. She emphasized that social entrepreneurs tend to overwork since they believe they have a very important mission. She had also believed she had to suffer in order to be a good social entrepreneur. However, she says “this hero model is very dangerous.” She underscored the fact that “majority of social entrepreneurs are going through break down and physical problems such as migraines, substance abuse, intestinal problems.” Wellbeingproject.org looks into social entrepreneurs and their mental health. After meeting wellbeingproject.org she clearly saw what she was doing to herself and how unsustainable it was. She also mentioned how much harm she was doing to her company by not taking care of herself. She highlighted that wellbeingproject.org has great resources for anyone interested in the area.

The next guest was İstem Sever from Buğday Association. She works on permaculture gardens and ecophobia. She shared the conversation with a talk by Victor Ananias, who is the founder of Buğday Association. In his talk, Victor highlights, “Advancements, elements which made life easier, all these have impoverished another aspect of life. We perceive what is going on as out there, remote from us.” He says there are a lot of seeds in Turkey, both literal and figurative, which tend to be unused effectively and Buğday Association is working towards making better use of them. “Buğday’s mission is to create ecological living conscience and awareness in the society both at the individual level and as a whole; to offer solutions to the problems arising due to the irreversible destruction of ecological systems; and to support living in harmony with nature.” There are various ways in which they work for these goals, such as but not limited to: “sharing knowledge and experience on ecological living, valuing traditional knowledge and working on to protect and sustain it, considering ecological production to be essential and working to promote it.” Their current projects include No Pesticides on My Plate, MedCaravan, Pesticide Free Towns Turkey, WWOOF Turkey/TaTuTa, 100% Ecological Farmers’ Market. They are cooperating with various national and international organizations for these projects. At the end of her talk, Sever said, “from a holistic point of view, our choices matter, projects we do matter.”

With six different speakers, who all had expertise in different fields and personal experiences to share with the community and with the breakout discussions the day was really fruitful. Seeing the concept of changemaking and well-being and health together really created a diversity of topics. Pondering upon the idea of death, being reminded of the importance of mental and physical health certainly was inspiring.

We are now excited to see how student teams from Robert College will respond to these issues with the projects that they will be designing in the next four months.

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Robert College Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Creativity Office

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