In 2015, after I finished prep school, I took a course in - Introduction to Sustainable Development from Jeffrey Sachs. At this time I didn’t know what sustainable development was. This course was based on world problems, and I finished that course in 6 weeks. It really impressed me. I felt like I was supposed to do something, anything! I wrote an e-mail to Jeffrey Sachs. I told him the whole story.

Dear Prof. Sachs
This is Buket Altınçelep who is a student of the International Relations in the Tobb Economics And Technology University in Turkey. I had an opportunity to take your course in coursera ''Introduction to Sustainable Development''. This course totally broadened my horizons. I have always been hopeful for world's situation although bad circumstances. In addition, I have always wanted to do something to make this world better, people can recognize what kind of world we have and what we are supposed to do. I searched your ''The Earth İnstitute - Columbia University'' and I want to set up this helpful institute in my university. In my point of view, in Turkey, there are talented engineers, economists. However, there aren’t any initiatives, aims or targets about how to make the world a better place.I want to be an example for other universities, students. Is there any opportunity to cooperate, to share information and courses between our universities?
Buket Altınçelep

Prof. Sachs answered me:

Dear Buket,
Please meet Ms. Maria Álvarez, who will write to you about the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), and the youth movement that is part of it.  You can indeed get involved, and help to strengthen your university as you wisely propose!
With best wishes,
Prof. Jeffrey D. Sachs

After some more e-mails the Coordinator of SDSN in Boğaziçi University, Turkey. She gave me an opportunity to create awareness about SDGs.

I told my friends about SDGs. They were really impressed. They said:

“Let’s do it! Let’s save the world!”

Of course, there are some reactions like:

“Do you really believe that you can save the world?”

I always answered them with:

“I don’t know if that will happen, however I know exactly that it is worth the try”

I told my lecturers about SDSN and SDGs. The Head of my department made news about my internship in SDSN to create awareness about it.

In one of my lessons, my lecturer gave me an opportunity to represent SDSN and the Millennium Goals (I made a presentation about 40 minutes) she even did a quiz about them!

After that, 6 of my friends and I made a club called SDSN-Academy.  We very quickly grew traction, with a total of 68 active members in the beginning. We started with a presentation about SDGs to educate our fellow students, then we began surveying members about which SDGs they would like to contribute to the most. Results were: Quality Education, Gender Equality, and Peace & Justice, so we divided the club into 3 committees to correspond with these results. It was really important to note that every committee has a woman and a man leading to show people how important gender equality is in practice. We also had an information tour to United Nations Information Center in Ankara. They gave us SDGs billboards and USBs and hosted us very kindly.

There are specific focuses and approaches that we put on these particular goals:

Quality Education: Focused on educating primary school children in Turkey.

Gender Equality: We made a survey about gender bias, we measured the results quantitatively and ended with 60%. In response to this, we gave training about gender equality. Two of our lecturers gave us training, telling us about women and men in professional and social areas, the differences internationally, and the students responded strongly! With the students tweeting about it, it really made us feel like we had made an impact.

On the 8th of March, we held a World Woman Day Seminar. We had 3 great and entrepreneurs women speakers. In addition, we ran another seminar with another club in Tobb University to show the importance of collaboration.  We ran another survey and through all of this, we could decrease bias by 30%!

Peace & Justice: This focused on Terrorism. To address this topic, we finished an online course from coursera from Leiden University, ‘’Terrorism and Counterterrorism’’, we had our own lecturers teach us about terrorism as well.

We also ran a World Environment Day Seminar which was really effective, the speakers were 3 Professors from another university. We did this in the hopes of reaching another university in Turkey and creating awareness there as well.

We did all of this in 5 months, and I will continue what we have achieved and will do in this term too.

Buket  Altınçelep  and Jeffrey Sachs at Bogazici University, in Turkey.

Buket Altınçelep and Jeffrey Sachs at Bogazici University, in Turkey.

And indeed we did aim to achieve more.

  • We held a booth for new members, holding competitions about the SDGs, each with 17 questions relevant to every SDG. A competitor would choose 5 questions.

    Prize for 1 right answer: Pencil
    Prize for 3 right answers: brooch of SDGs
    Prize for 5 full right answers: a USB!

    This was a really effective way to consolidate knowledge about SDGs. We now have a total of 168 members!

    We also joined the KnowYourGoals campaign and held two events. Each student was assigned an SDG, they were to discuss it and that’s how we would learn together.

  • We had breakfast club!  The breakfast place loved the SDGs. They made a quiz night on Wednesdays about SDGs. People who know the answer about SDGs question would win a meal!

  • We did a re-election for Board of Directors to ensure fresh ideas, and sustainability in the way we function - welcoming new ideas and new perspectives.

    Following the re-election, we re-divided into 5 committees: No Poverty, Quality Education, Peace & Justice, Reduce Inequalities ( Gender Equality included), Climate Change.

No Poverty: This will start with a Project about a particular impoverished village in Turkey.

Peace & Justice: This expanded to terrorism and refugees issues.

Reduce Inequalities & Quality Education: We are working on raising the quality of Primary School Students education. We will go into the schools and teach children English, and run an SDG Workshop.

Climate Change: They are writing a Project on ‘’Waste management’’ for urbanization and environment ministry.

  • On the 24th of October UN day, we will go Nigerian Embassy and have a conversation about SDGs.
  • On the 25th of October we will do a UN Day Seminar with 3 representatives of UNIC House, UNSDSN, UNHCR with a workshop as well.

Buket Altınçelep is a 3rd-year student of International Relations at Tobb University of Economics and Technology, with a full scholarship. She also graduated from Pamukova Anatolian High School with Second Place and has been working at Yaşamartı (an Institution about Personal Development Psychology) for 2 years now. Buket has been with UNSDSN-Youth since 2015. In addition, she has also worked at The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey.

Buket is proficient in French and English, and her main interests are in International Law, International Organizations and Sustainable Development, Foreign Policy Analysis, International Economic Politics. Her hobbies also include riding horses, tennis, trekking, attending seminars, conferences, receptions, festivals; being active and spending time with friends.