In honour of one special man who has stuck by our and my side

Posted on July 31, 2014


To commemorate our sixth anniversary, I would like to look behind the scenes of what manny people see at our workshop, in the press, at çöp(m)adam. We did not get this far alone; I certainly never would have made it this far without the support of many, but specifically the support of one special person, my business partner of 5 years, Melih Özsöz.

When I finally came up with the basis for what was to become çöp(m)adam, I shared the idea with those who knew what I believed in most, a few good friends, family, and a wonderful group of students who worked closely with me for no fewer than 4 years, as we set up the first curricular program for civic participation here in Turkey. We became quite close and spent much time together; it was one of those wonderful instructor-student situations.

melo oko bike

I asked for feed-back on the name, the logo, the concept. Most of the responses were positive and constructive. After a while, some people realised that I was serious about this; one person who wanted to be involved a bit more, to the extent that he offered to be my business partner. I thought I knew what I wanted to achieve, but I, uh, am never totally confident that laws here will work in the favour or the foreigner, so it made sense to legally work with a friend who was also a citizen.

Just as çöp(m)adam has become an endeavour with a life of its own, Melih, my wonderful business partner, became the partner that one could only dream of if one could dare wish for such support, such dedication, so much time put into something that he believed in and yet was not his own invention. For much of our (short) history, he was the only man officially involved in this effort to raise women’s self-esteem.

While there are some perks he had to being my business partner, receiving a salary was not one of them. And yet, he gave his all to what we were doing. For me, more importantly, Melih was the support I needed when money promised did not come through, when I was having another communication-challenged-day; when I could not muster the tact to try and convey what it was we were trying to do to yet another major company, Melih had the words and the grace to try to get the idea across.

Melih was instrumental in getting word our about our work to the Salzburg Seminars, TED Talks, INSEAD, UNDP, Ashoka, and to countless companies, large and small. Many people have listened to him speak about social entrepreneurship, both in Turkey and abroad.

After 5 years of a lot of work, often no recognition, Melih was offered a well-deserved promotion at his paying job. This is great for him and it also means that we have been working without a partner for the last year or so. We already know who our new business partner will be (watch this space!). For the time being though, we are all grateful for all the support, the warmth, the contacts, the energy, the positive attitude, and the love that Melih gave to this very unconventional effort. Without his being there for me, I don’t think I would have made it this for.

And so, I would like to publicly thank this wonderful man, Melih Özsöz, for all that he did for us, for me. The world needs more people like you, dear! Thank you, thank you so much.

Another transition in the life of the garbage ladies.