July 1, 2013

Lessons in Youth Engagement from Turkey

As a cancer survivor, and passionate supporter of cancer patients, Salih Yuce’s U.S. exchange experience with the International Visitor Leadership Program has proven invaluable for his advocacy and awareness projects in Turkey.

Drawing on insights gained about diversity and pluralism during the exchange, Salih introduced Mus citizens and cancer patients to dance, film and photography through the Open Dance Studio Project and three additional innovative projects: International Oncology Days, Youth Project, and Live Healthy Stay Healthy Project. Using his understanding of diversity and pluralism, Salih organized the “Youth Train” project which brought together youth from Turkey and Armenia to learn more about one another’s culture through folk dance and discussions. Salih was also instrumental in implementing a dance program for cancer patients as part of the second annual Open Dance Studio Project. Through sponsorship of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the project team performed at the opening ceremony of International Oncology Days festivities, filmed a documentary in Mus, and organized “Catch the Movement,” an online photography contest. With Salih’s contribution, it was easy to engage people in workshops and street shows.

Just recently, Salih received another grant from the U.S. Embassy to bring two American speakers to Mus for the 6th annual International Oncology Days. Under his leadership, influential members of the medical and scientific communities were invited to share best practices in combating cancer together with representatives from the parliament, European nations, non-governmental organizations, youth-centric institutions, media, and the U.S. Mission. The event attracted participants from approximately 25 countries and proved to be an excellent platform for fostering dialogue on cancer among experts from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

Salih’s contributions to his community have been well documented and praised on the local level and in the national arena. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, devoted a part of his May 10, 2013 speech to recognizing Salih Yuce’s great contributions. After giving a detailed account of Salih’s accomplishments, he said “I congratulate him. That’s what I am talking about… expanding horizon and vision, interacting various cultures and building bridges among civilizations.”

When proudly reflecting on how his U.S. exchange on the IVLP deeply enhanced his commitment to public service, international collaboration, and community cooperation, Salih stated the following: “Upon my return to Turkey, I felt people counted on and respected me more as an expert on many societal issues. Consequently, I was invited to the Council of Eastern Anatolian Development Agency, entered the Cancer Think Tank of the Turkish Ministry of Health, and occupied an executive position at the Mus Civil Society Platform. I was and I am still inspired by concepts and skills that I learned during my exchange program in the U.S.A. The Turkish Ministry of Health recognized me with an award in 2012. The Prime Minister gave a speech about my work. I was [featured on] a national television program. Many newspapers [published articles] about my work. Most importantly, I was able to serve my community and carry out … projects [in] collaboration with international and national organizations….thanks to the officials at the U.S. Department of the State, U.S. Embassy Ankara, and U.S. Consulate Adana.”

Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Throughout July, Salih Yuce’s work will be recognized on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website for the more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.