This interview is with Sevan Tosun, the Vice President of Mer Hayer, a charitable organization that helps Armenian families in need. We discuss the inspiration behind the organization and how they differentiate themselves from other non-profit organizations.
Mr. Tosun explains how the organization adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, earthquake and what role they see themselves playing in the future of the Armenian community.
Additionally, Sevan Tosunshares ways in which people can support Mer Hayer and some success stories, discussion about the challenges faced in scaling operations and what can be expected from Mer Hayer in the future.
What inspired you to create Mer Hayer and how did you get started?
In 2020, I went to Turkey to visit my family and reunited with my friend Arevcebeci while there. ArevCebeci the president along with his wife Natali Cebeci were already involved with Mer Hayer but on a much smaller scale than it is today. Both of us, since childhood, have always wanted to help Armenians, especially those who have been less fortunate. Putting our minds and hearts together, we rebranded and made Mer Hayer into a much bigger charitable organization today.
Can you describe the unique features of Mer Hayer platform and how it differentiates from other non-profit organizations?
What differentiates us from other non-profit organizations is that we go on a very personal level with the families we are helping. We do not just extend our arms and our pockets. That’s the easy part!! Rather, we take the time and we go to personally meet with them, engage with them, become a part of their everyday lives. We share with them their good days and their bad days. The elderly and the children. We never make them feel different or lesser than us. We are adults with adults and children with children. This way, they will not feel embarrassed about their current situation and can put their problems behind them and focus only on the present.
How has Mer Hayer adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and what impact has it had on the organization?
The COVID-19 Pandemic, as terrible as it was on many fronts, worked in our favour. While everyone was busy dealing with masks and distance, it gave Mer Hayer the chance to get to know our Armenian Families on a much closer level. While the world stayed apart and got more distant from their families and loved ones, we got closer with the families we are helping, even though it was sometimes on zoom or video calls. When there was a lockdown in the city Istanbul and the people couldn’t leave their homes, we took food and their daily essentials to them at their doorsteps. Together, we achieved the unachievable even during the most difficult times.
What role do you see Mer Hayer playing in the future of our Armenian Community?
We want to be the face of assistance for all of the Armenians in need, and be ableto reach out and touch everybody. When someone is in need, or finds themselves in dire situation, we want them to think of Mer Hayer as their solution.
Mer Hayer is flexible and always ready. For example, when the earthquake happened in February 2023, nobody expected it. Mer Hayer went above and beyond and reached out to the people outside of Istanbul and provided them with the basic needs they required to go on with their daily lives.
How do people can support Mer Hayer?
The most important step is to believe in the idea and the mission of Mer Hayer. Spreading the word to your family and friendship circles, following our social media accounts and sharing our posts and stories. Raising and spreading awareness to help us reach every one who is in need of our help.
Finally, if you are able to help financially, contact us and extend your arms to help us help our Armenian Families.
Can you share any success stories from Mer Hayer?
I cannot pinpoint one specific success story of Mer Hayer because each story touches us in a unique way. At the end of the day, they all have something in common and that is why they’re reaching out to us. I can say what touches me the most are the families with young children who live in broken down homes, and do not have the means to go out there and work due to their health or their age. Orphaned children also has a very soft spot in our hearts. Helping these children, and seeing their smiles after our mission is complete, is worth every single time and penny spent for us.
What challenges has Mer Hayer faced in scaling its operations and how have you addressed them?
The biggest challenge Mer Hayer has faced is that not many people believe in change. It’s easy to continue a pattern of what is, but if you don’t put your minds together and create change, you will be unable to make the world a better place especially for our Armenian people in need. Another challenge is the lack of support of other similar Armenians foundations. As Armenians, If we all support one another, and if we all unite, we can become bigger and stronger as a people and as a foundation. Given all of this, I would like to point that we are fortunate to have the support of our Mayor, who believes in us and for that we are very grateful.
What can we expect from Mer Hayer in the coming years in terms of new features or expansions?
Our number one principle in life is to give more than we take. We strive to help others without having any sort of agenda. We simply want to make the Armenian community a better place, even through small acts of kindness, which is why we founded Mer Hayer. By believing in ourselves, by uniting and becoming one force, we can make this happen. Until not one Armenian elderly person is left without medication, until not one Father comes home without bread for his children, until not young adult goes to bed hungry, until not one child goes to bed without his/her favorite toy and until not one infant goes to bed without milk.
I would like to thank everyone who has helped us reach the milestones we have reached today. From the Mayor, to the board of directors, to each and every volunteer…we THANK YOU! If you are inspired by our story, and for all the young adults who have similar dreams, please reach out to us, as you are all welcome.