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Legacy: 3 Generations, Experiment Turkey

Experiment Turkey in action, 2013

Experiment Turkey is an exceptional member of the Experiment family in that 3 generations of the same family have been at the helm for over 50 years. Today, Experiment Turkey is run by the granddaughter of founder Meliha Toros, and before that, her father directed operations.  Kamil Toros passed away this year.

EIL offices around the world received the news in early November from Federation EIL Director, Ilene Todd:

It is with great sadness that I must pass along the news that The Experiment family has lost a dear friend and colleague.  Kamil Toros passed away at his home this morning.  It was quite sudden and leaves us all with feelings of deep sorrow for Zeynep, the entire Toros family, and our colleagues at Experiment Turkey.

Executive Board President, Bettina Wiedmann, responded the following day:

We heard the sad news about Kamil Toros’ passing. Kamil’s contributions to the Experiment world are huge and everyone who has had the honor of getting to know him knows that Experiment Turkey, and the Experiment as a whole, has lost a great leader.

Kamil Toros (center), Berlin in 2007, “Ambassador Emeritus” award with colleagues: Alvino Fantini, World Learning (left) & Agustín Castellón, EIL Chile (right.)

When I heard the news yesterday, I was at the ICEF workshop in Berlin. Over 2000 delegates from all over the world who all work in our sector got together for 2 ½ days to ‘do business together’. Even at a huge workshop like ICEF, people know the Experiment and it has an excellent reputation.

 While there are many changes and many uncertainties in the world at this time, we owe it to people like Kamil that we embrace the future and take advantage of all of the opportunities that are out there.

In 2012, the Experiment celebrated its 80th anniversary, and on that occasion, the legacy of each office was shared to create a Collective History of our organization. Below are some of the excerpts from the proud legacy of  Experiment Turkey, written by Kamil Toros.

(Adapted from: About Our Institution: Federation EIL – Collective Histories, edited by Alvino Fantini.)

In the Beginning

It all started with a fortuitous encounter. My older brother, Hilmi Toros, while a graduate student at Colombia University in the US, met Dr. John Wallace at a conference. Hilmi learned about The Experiment and upon his return to Turkey, informed my mother, Meliha, who got very interested. Not long after, my mother received a letter about the subject and she replied immediately to express her interest. Correspondence continued and this was followed by a visit from Dr. Watt and his wife. The Watts had a homestay in our house for almost three months and The Experiment in Turkey was established. I was a child of nine years old at that time.

Meliha attended her first General International Meeting (GIM) in 1959 at Grenoble, France as the first Turkish delegates, accompanied by my father who, at the time was living in Paris on State duty. They were welcomed by Gordon Boyce and John Wallace. After that, my mother attended almost every subsequent GIM meeting.

Meliha and son Kamil Toros

Following a military coup in Turkey in 1960, travel outside our country was restricted. My mother was able to attend the GIM meeting in Mexico only by securing special permission from the commander of martial law, becoming the first Turkish citizen to travel outside of Turkey at that time.

Meliha Toros was National Director of Experiment Turkey until 1987. As a young person, I assisted my mother with Experiment Programs until 1968. In 1987, my mother handed over to me the responsibility of National Director and I became President of Experiment Turkey. In 2003, Meliha was named to the “College of Experiment Ambassadors Emeriti.”

Activities

Once established, we sent our first participant, Demet Güney to the United States in 1959 under auspices of the Ambassador Program. The following year, five Experimenters participated.

The first incoming program hosted in Turkey was a large group of American college students in 1961. At that time, no concept of voluntary work existed, so the program was mainly cultural. In a 4 to 5 week program, they first had a homestay in Istanbul that included a comprehensive city tour. I remember that we did a picnic and ate sandwiches with the whole group in the garden of Topkapi Palace at lunch time. The group later went on an informal trip by bus to Anatolia with members of their Turkish families and visited many historical places. I remember also that with a special permission, they were also able to visit the Parliament Building.

In those years, travel abroad was neither common nor easy as it is today. Nonetheless, we introduced and promoted the Experiment concept within a relatively short time. As a result, a lot of young people began to travel outside our country. Later, when those people obtained key positions in Turkey, we were both happy and proud and EIL became better known. One returning Experimenter eventually became Minister of Culture. Today, former host families, their children and their grandchildren, are now in positions to serve as host families. The extended family of Experiment Turkey has continued to grow. They connect with each other and powerful bonds are formed.

International Meetings

To date, Experiment Turkey has hosted three General Assemblies (GAs), in 1970, 1987, and 2002. The year 1970 was especially significant — the 20th GIM for The Experiment and the 10th Anniversary for Experiment Turkey. Over 300 delegates attended this meeting in Istanbul, followed by a tour with 160 people in Anatolia.

The meeting was opened with an introduction delivered by Meliha Toros: Experiment friends from all over the world, this 20th Meeting of The International Experiment is now open. And now, Dr.Watt is going to talk some about The Experiment.”

And so, Dr. Watt began with his remarks:

“At a time when financial difficulties have retarded the work of many non-governmental educational institutions, our presence here shows that the achievements of The Experiment continue to expand. With representatives from all the countries of the world, we constitute a substantial sample of the worldwide organization which has been successful in bringing people of many different races to work together in harmony.

Our world has quite suddenly found itself subject to a social disease. Noisy protests and common quarreling are common activities. It is true that The Experiment has not become involved in them and yet our interest is to create human understanding where misunderstanding is greatest. Today, it is difficult to see how our methods could be applied successfully to such abnormalities, but I venture to suggest that we should reach for ways to be of service. The Experiment has now existed for such a long time that it is hard to realize that we are the creators of many activities now being promoted by youth organizations as well as universities. I feel sure we will continue to provide the same leadership in the future.”

Zeynep & father Kamil Toros

Finally, during the 1987 meetings in Istanbul, it was decided to call our meetings “General Assembly”. Therefore, the last Council Meeting as such was held in Istanbul in 1987. The Last GA we hosted in Turkey was in 2002. At that time, I turned over the position of National Director of Experiment Turkey to my daughter, Zeynep. I maintain my connections, however, as President of Experiment Turkey.

Zeynep Toros, daughter of Kamil, is the third generation of the Toros family to direct the Experiment in Turkey, which was founded by her grandmother, Meliha. Here, grandmother and granddaughter are pictured together:

Meliha Toros & granddaughter Zeynep

To find out more about Experiment Turkey today, click here.

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