Steps for the future
YASEMIN GÜLPINAR follows the course of a two-day survival challenge raising environmental awareness and charity funds in memory of an expat resident.
“BEYOND our wildest dreams” was the verdict of Patricia Nairn, one of the team behind the second “Norman’s Walk”, raising funds for young cancer patients in memory of her late partner, Norman Aitken. Last weekend’s event doubled its inaugural numbers and proceeds, some 15 months after Mr Aitken lost his own battle with the disease. The Kemal Saraçoğlu Foundation for Children with Leukaemia and the Fight Against Cancer will benefit to the tune of 11,000TL from the two-day challenge, after last year’s 50 participants had generated 5,183TL for the Help Those With Cancer Association (Tulips). This time, 93 people, among them children and adults of various nationalities, from Russian to German, British, French and Turkish Cypriot, camped, walked and joined in a range of activities last Saturday and Sunday. The event — also known as the Survive Beşparmak challenge and organised by Wendy and Çağan Sarıoğlu, owners of Alsancak’s Oak Tree Park — was conceived last year when Ms Nairn and a group of Mr Aitken’s friends decided to stage a walk in tribute to the keen hiker and nature-lover who passed away on July 31, 2017 after 14 years living in the TRNC. Ms Nairn said the idea had been to do something “different”, in which children and families could participate, joining in fun activities that would make them think about the environment while enjoying mountainside trails.
Reflecting on last weekend’s successs, she said: “A couple of days beforehand we were thinking ‘are we even going to make the 50 of last year’s attendance’ — then on Saturday we were shocked at how everyone came flooding in to sign up!
“The whole two days were absolutely amazing, especially knowing that we were doing good for children while having such a wonderful time. Our sponsors were also very generous and we’re hoping we create a momentum and continue with this success in the following years.”
She said the group had only had six weeks to prepare last year’s first event, following Mr Aitken’s death, and she had been “hopeless” and “still in a state of shock”.
“This year, we decided to begin earlier and worked on it since April. We had more members on our fundraising team to bring in different ideas, especially encouraging children to pick up as much litter as they could, making a point of the pollution
problems we have. We also directed people to bring reusable items, to highlight the use of plastic and the harm it causes.”
As well as litter-picking while walking, activities included a scavenger hunt, survival workshop and irst aid training at the group’s overnight campsite above Ilgaz.
“The scavenger hunt was to mark the importance of protecting and knowing our nature and was also educational, as we had questions asking children to find a leaf from a specific tree while we walked along,” said Ms Nairn, adding: “All in all, our success in attracting loads of people was also from the publicity we got, as it’s all about getting the word out there. We thank everyone for supporting us in this emotional and happy occasion.”
Kemal Saraçoğlu Foundation coordinator Övgü İnce added: “This was not just an ordinary charity event, but a very meaningful one, as it was held in memory of someone who lost their fight against cancer and was to keep his name alive.
“It also had great value in the lives of children who were actively involved in environmental protection by cleaning up throughout the whole event, being active and doing sport, as well as learning about an organisation which helps children for whom they also raised money.
“The event also pointed out the importance of the environment and how being active is good for us. Many of those who attended had been unaware of our charity and we even had one child who raised 600TL in sponsorship to help our children in some way.”
Ms İnce said the 11,000TL was “very big money” for the charity, which has monthly outgoings including covering educational bursaries for 13 university students and rent for families whose children are undergoing cancer treatment in Turkey.
“Those who organised this event are very beautiful people who were interested to know more about us and what we do and then decided to help us, for which we are grateful.”
The youngest ‘walker’ Taron Şenay (18 months old) supported by his parents, Katja and Mehmet Şenay
The campsite after the walkers have arrived
Övgü İnce presents certificates to those who helped organise and supported the event
The fund raising group: from left, Joanne Hickey, Wendy Sarıoğlu, Glen Quelch, Seda Djemal, Mustafa Oralman, Patricia Nairn (Norman Aitken’s partner and instigator of Norman’s Walk), Deniz Oralman, Çağan Sarıoğlu, Susan Gürel (from Kemal Saraçoğlu), Adem Bayman (first aid instructor) Photos: Brian Joyce