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Episode 9: From Empathy to Action, One Family’s Journey Helping Syrian Children Heal

February 14, 2020

Armed with empathy and a desire to help, Esra Özsüer and her son Emir followed their hearts into the Syrian crisis by founding the Maya Foundation in 2014 to provide art and music therapy as a way of helping Syrian children cope with the trauma of violence, survival and the difficulties of living as refugees. Observing her son Emir’s experience interacting with Syrian refugees was the basis for formalizing the Foundation in Turkey with over 3.5 million refugees fleeing war and conflict.

In Season 4 of Fatima’s Hand, hear Esra talk about the need for leadership in the midst of crisis and how her own journey unfolded, moving from businesswoman to philanthropist and NGO leader despite the skepticism and judgement she faced when starting an organization with no experience in the nonprofit or humanitarian field.

Esra’s core belief that that all traumatized children need attention, compassion and proper intervention, brought about the establishment of a psychological recovery program which uses therapeutic creative art methods, dance therapy, and music for Syrian children.  The program has evolved to establishing Trauma Informed Schools, helping thousands of teachers across Turkey understand the experiences and needs of Syrian refugee children.

Esra strongly believes that the voice and expression of children should be taken into greater account when designing educational and support services for them. Which led her to step out of her comfort zone in order to raise her voice publicly with community leaders across Turkey and policymakers from Europe and the United States about what Syrian families need in order to heal and cope.

In this episode, hear Esra talk personally about pursuing heart felt work –  how her spiritually, commitment to universal values and a practice of gratitude has allowed her to take risks and use her gifts for good, opening up new chapters of her life on a path of purpose and meaning. She believes that connectivity with yourself allows you to create deeper connections with others and creates the conditions for change.

“Women are learning how to work together, to participate on a platform and to hold our hands together. And if you unite, you create even more – more leaders!” – Esra Özsüer

Podcast Notes

  • :30 Leadership in crisis
  • 3:30 Coming out of my own shell
  • 4:22 The Syrian influx
  • 5:18 Where they started
  • 6:00 Why psycho social support
  • 9:00 Syrian refugee support system
  • 11:15 Creating empathy
  • 13:35 A foreigner in a foreign country
  • 15:16 Lessons in creating an NGO
  • 18:20 The balancing act
  • 21:36 Transformations
  • 23:09 Family dynamics shapes outlooks
  • 24:32 The idea of the other
  • 26:00 The importance of global philanthropic networks
  • 28:00 The culture of social responsibility
  • 30:48 How technology and refugee support merge
  • 31:30 The role of mothers in healing
  • 34:02 Heartfelt work and following your passions
  • 37:13 Mindful leadership
  • 38:24 How the world will be different for women 20 years from now
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