Fellow Since 2001
Children of Hope Foundation
This profile was prepared when Yusuf Kulca was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
In the early 1980s, Yusuf began to call attention to an overlooked and vulnerable group–children living on the streets of Istanbul and other major Turkish cities. A former street child himself, he knew that solutions were not easily or quickly found. In fact, he began quite small: he found and refurbished an abandoned building in Istanbul, making it into a livable space for eight children. Over the years, this effort grew into an association for the protection of street children, the first of its kind in Turkey, then into a series of reforms and awareness campaigns that, together, have significantly changed the way the public sees and responds to this group. Medical treatment, residential facilities, and food and clothing are among the resources now earmarked for these children, signaling greater public attention to their needs. And perhaps most significantly, the public views street children with greater compassion than did the public of 30 years ago. A passionate advocate and skilled social entrepreneur, Yusuf has worked with policymakers and citizens throughout the country and inspired efforts in 14 Turkish cities. He is now taking his blueprint for reform to another ignored group: the country's one million gypsies.