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Profile of a Turkish-American Community Builder: 
Sema Karaoglu


by Emin PAMUCAK
LM-South, North Carolina

One of the most recognizable Turkish-American community members is Sema Karaoglu, known primarily for her community building efforts through the internet based women's networking group called Daughters of Ataturk <http://www.DofA.org>.  Founded in 1999, Daughters of Ataturk's mission is to globally promote Turkish women and foreign spouses of Turkish men, whether they are professional career women or stay-at-home moms.  While Sema proudly admits that many Turkish-Americans are professionally successful and are active members of the societies they live in, their Turkishness or Turkish identity is not always apparent.  She knows that nurturing a community of like minded people, and keeping this network of people that share a common heritage connected together is just as important.  This has been the primary founding vision behind the successful Daughter of Ataturk organization.

The growth of the Internet has made Sema's community building efforts even more successful by providing an enabling tool for advancing the Daughters of Ataturk's mission on a global platform.  During a recent teleconference with Light Millennium - South members, Sema indicated that the Internet has given her organization a wonderful opportunity for building alliances among individuals who are socially and geographically separated. Creating a virtual community of like minded people, who may otherwise, not have the opportunity to interact.  The Daughters of Ataturk community members share their individual projects, aspirations, and most importantly, their success stories through their own yahoo group at the following link: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Daughters_of_Ataturk/>

Most Daughters of Ataturk members, like Sema, are community builders. They are not self-serving individuals. Rather, they are interested in improving and perpetuating their heritage and their communities. The group, as a whole, shares with and inspires one another in nurturing and developing a community spirit. Many members individually are "quiet achievers" in their own communities, doing good work, but doing it quietly. For this reason, soon after the inception of Daughters of Ataturk organization in 1999, Sema originated the Daughters of Ataturk's Women of Distinction Award to publicly acknowledge the contributions of the International Turkish Women. On its seventh year of recognitions, over 200 International women around the world have been formally recognized by Daughters of Ataturk. This year for the first time, Sons of Ataturk, as well as international Turkish NGO's serving the Turkish cause (including the Light Millennium) have also been recognized by Daughters of Ataturk.  Sons of Ataturk's website: <http://www.sonsofataturk.org> was dedicated to the memory of Sema's father Seref Karaoglu.

About Sema Karaoglu:

Sema Karaoglu was born on the Island of Cyprus back when it was still a British Crown Colony. She moved with her parents to the United States as a young child.   Following the footsteps of her mother, Leman, who was very active in rekindling the almost defunct local Turkish-American club, Sema also became active in the club at an early age and continues to this day.   Years later in the 70's, as the local club was incorporated as an Association, Sema was instrumental in translating the original bylaws from Turkish to English.  After briefly serving as regional VP with ATAA, she now devotes her time to Daughters of Ataturk and continues to be active with many other Turkish American associations.   Sema is married to Arthur Osman and has two children, Kara and Osman.

Some inspiring excerpts from Light Millennium teleconference with Sema Karaoglu follow below:

About the Daughters of Ataturk Name:

"Kemal Ataturk was the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey from the ashes of Ottoman Empire. His vision included a contemporary society based on principles of democracy and modern day knowledge and teachings, without difference to gender and equal opportunity for all.  In a way we are all Daughters and Sons of Ataturk, propagating his vision.   Modernization of Turkey led to the emancipation of the Turkish women which is a unique historical event.  With this name for our organization, I wanted to identify the importance of Ataturk's vision as well as honor all Turkish women."

About the Daughters of Ataturk Comradery:

"We all draw energy and strength from each other.  Daughters of Ataturk could not be successful without the participation of our members.  There's nothing we cannot do as long as we act as one, learn from our mistakes, share our success stories and inspire one another.  Our main goal is the promotion and the recognition of Turkish Women."

About Positive Community Impact:

"One way we can achieve positive impact for our communities is to be active and integrated members of the greater societies we live in.  We need to participate in our local communities, our children's school programs, student organizations at the universities, or other professional and service-oriented clubs. The more active we are the better chance we have to make a positive impact in our societies."

About Being a Turkish-American:

"As Turkish-Americans we are all products of this nation, as well as our native land. I am proud of my heritage and culture, as well as how this society has shaped me as a person.  It is the second and third generation of Turkish-Americans can we hope that will carry the torch of Turkishness and Turkish identity, and keep our voices heard in this land of immigrants, our adopted home."

Advice to the Turkish-American Youth:

"You are part of two worlds, and you are a richer person because of this.  You can pick the best aspects of each culture, but to do this you have to be involved in both.  On my 7th birthday, my father gave me a pair of scissors, a glue stick and a scrap book as my present, and asked me to collect and create a treasure chest of articles about Turkey, not from Turkish media but from the foreign print media. To this day, I still clip and save articles on Turkey and Turks.  

You can read more about Sema Karaoglu's advice to the Turkish-American youth in Burcu Bozkurt's "Teen Perspective" article>

Many thanks to Sema for her time and I hope that many young generations of Turkish-American women will follow in her lead.

Emin Pamucak
April 10, 2006
Cary, North Carolina
Light Millennium - South

More LM - South articles at>  http://www.lightmillennium.org/south.html

LIGHTMILLENNIUM.ORG -6th Anniversay, #17th Issue
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