Yesterday, Turkey's state-run religious authority, the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), unveiled recipients of its Fourth International Benevolence Awards. On March 13, this year's awards will be handed to seven winners picked from a list of 1,500 with stories of good deeds. Among them is a Canadian man giving free food to the needy and an Istanbul grocer who turned half of his store into a library for children.
Speaking at an event in Ankara to introduce the winners, DİB President Ali Erbaş said the recipients were picked from among 140 countries where a charity foundation has ties to DİB. "A good deed is one done only to have the blessing of Allah. It shouldn't be done to show off. This award seeks to keep benevolence, good deeds on the agenda, to make goodness prevail in a world surrounded by evil. We hope to start mobilizing to spread goodness," Erbaş said.
Hasan Kızıl, a 22-year-old man from Derik, a southeastern Turkish town, is one of the "benevolent people" awarded by the presidency. Kızıl dedicated his life to building prosthetic legs, hands and arms for animals for free. An amateur inventor, he started out by building prosthetic body parts from junk he collected from junk collectors.
The young man delivered prosthetic parts, such as two hind legs he made out of shopping cart wheels for a cat, for 200 animals all across Turkey, for free. Sevde Sevan Usak from Istanbul, who settled in the Maasaia region in Tanzania after her marriage to a local there, was recognized for her contribution to the education of women and children in Tanzania. She helped local women engage in agriculture by helping them plant fruit trees and mobilized Turkish charities to drill water wells for the poor Maasai community. Yahya Hashemi, who runs a restaurant in Canada's Montreal, is recognized for giving free food to the needy with a sign in English and French: "People with no money are welcome to eat for free."
Hashemi soon drew patrons who donated money for him to offer more free meals to the needy. Kanber Bozan, a 49-year-old grocer living in Istanbul's Üsküdar district, is hailed for turning a section of his store into a library for children. Bozan offers gifts to children from his store based on the number of books they read. Mahmut Karaman, an academic from the city of Sakarya, is another recipient for driving across Istanbul at night to serve soup to the homeless and migrants. Muhammad Bzeek, a 62-year-old U.S. citizen of Libyan origin, is recognized for only taking in terminally ill children as a foster father. Bzeek, who lives in California, has dedicated his life to terminally ill children since 1995.