Seeing her grandfather in the hospital with cancer gave Duygu Başak Gürtekin direct exposure to the poor conditions in many public hospitals in Turkey. Başak observed that one of the most significant service gaps was in the area of psychological health, particularly when it came to children and their families.
“We know we are making a difference.”
Başak was particularly moved when she saw children dealing with the prospect of dying. For Başak, sadness turned into an unwavering commitment to take action, and inspired her to launch Colors Matter for Health. The program now operates in 11 hospitals in Istanbul, is completely volunteer-led, and provides artsbased activities to educate, distract and empower children with longterm illnesses.
Başak says one of her proudest moments is when she sees children come to understand their rights as patients. Başak works to make children and families feel empowered and informed. She hopes to see long-term improvement in the physical and psychological health of the children she works with.
“When their parents and doctors tell us children’s symptoms have changed in a positive way after participating in our programs, we know we are making a difference.”
The great work of Colors Matter for Health would not be possible without the support of Bilgi University. The university continues to provide financial support, a shuttle service, access to meeting rooms, and a range of other resources, most of which are provided through the Student Support Center. Furthermore, many of the volunteers engaged in the program are students at Istanbul Bilgi University.
Başak is currently working towards her master’s degree at Istanbul Bilgi University with a focus on child patient rights and wants to be a leader in developing new health policies in Turkey, which has suffered from a lack of attention to this important area.
In the meantime, Başak will continue to make a positive impact on young people with long-term illnesses—one child at a time.
“When the children smile, start talking about their dreams for the future, and they cling to life—I’m the happiest person in the world.”