| Last week I told the story of how I made a language mistake in my early years, trying to get off the dolmuş (shared taxi) in Şişli. Instead of saying I want to get off (İnecek var!) I shouted out “There is a cow!” (inek var!). One little syllable makes all the difference. However, were I to be on a dolmuş in Şişli this week, I would probably hear my fellow Turkish passengers say “inek var” — for İstanbul has become the 54th city in the world to hold a Cow Parade.
Cow Parade is the world’s largest outdoor art-show for charity. In 1998 the parade decorated Zurich, the brainchild of window-dresser Walter Knapp, who wanted to support local artistic talent while decorating shop windows. The original cows were, therefore, modeled after real Swiss cows. Last year, cows were seen in cities as varied as Paris, Edinburgh, Athens, Lisbon, Budapest, Mexico City, Tokyo, Boston and Denver. Basically, famous people design outfits/color schemes for cows. The models are then created and exhibited around the city. At the end of the period, the cows are auctioned for charity.
The cows are life-size and made of fiberglass. They are brightly colored and decorated according to different designs, and 150 of them are decorating streets from Nişantaşı to Maslak. Don’t be surprised if you bump into one in a shopping center or museum garden, either. The cows come in three different poses: standing up, grazing and lying down.
İstanbul’s cow parade opened this month and continues until Oct. 31. This herd of cows has been designed by such famous people as Cemil İpekçi, Ömer Koç, Rıfat Özbek and Sezen Aksu.
To date the parades have raised over $10 million for charity. The recipients of Istanbul’s Cow Parade proceeds will be the Mother and Child Education Foundation (AÇEV), the Turkish Foundation for Reforestation, Protection of Natural Habitats and Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) and the Street Kids Rehabilitation Association.
What a wonderful idea, to mix decorating the city and an open-air art exhibition, with raising money for charity. I love creative ways of raising money. We all want to feel that we are doing something to help others less fortunate than ourselves. If this activity can be made a pleasurable one, rather than a drab duty, then this is great for both giver and receiver. The origin of the word “charity” is, after all, the Latin word for “love,” and the Bible teaches us that God loves a cheerful giver.
Well, these cows are definitely cheerful and they brighten up Istanbul’s streets. I thought I would explore the work of the charities they will be supporting, to learn about the lives that will also be brightened by the exhibition.
The Mother Child Education Foundation aims to help mothers and fathers raise happy and healthy children. Their work has two prongs. Firstly, they work to enable parents to develop parenting skills and support them in raising their children. Secondly, they are heavily involved in pre-school education for underprivileged children. You may have seen their television ads that encourage parents to spend time with their kids, or heard their slogan that “age seven is very late” to start education. Check out their Web site: http://www.acev.org/english/index.html.
TEMA’s primary goal is to raise social awareness about the dangers of soil erosion in Turkey. Perhaps their best-known activity is planting trees across the country, but they are also very involved in trying to stop migration by creating employment opportunities in rural areas. They have 35 rural development projects in various parts of the country. Find out more on their Web site: http://english.tema.org.tr/index.htm.
The Street Kids Rehabilitation Association is dedicated to reaching street kids and enabling them to be re-integrated into society. They aim at protecting them, meeting their physical, educational and emotional needs and providing “first step stations” as safe houses to slowly bring them back into society. Their Web site has limited information in English: http://www.sokakcocuklari.net/about_us.htm.
So as the cows bring a smile to your face, remember that they will bring a smile to the faces of many underprivileged children and families in Turkey.
“There is a cow” — until Oct. 31, yes there is. And more than that “there is a heart that cares” on the streets of Istanbul.