1 – initiating the project – note to self
At some point as I was reflecting on the name of the project, on borders and what I was inspired to do through the Beyond Borders project, I wrote a note to myself: “Physical borders are just the materialization of mental borders.” I was trying to understand how physical borders are created at all, both within and outside of us. I realized that when the mind is blocked, whatever could have manifested if given the freedom of imagination is also blocked from becoming manifest in reality.
2 – initiating the project – learning about peacebuilding
At that time, I was not yet educated in international relations or peace studies so I decided that if I was going to do a project and call it a peacebuilding project, I had to teach myself about what had been done in this field in terms of theory and practice. I relied on Hasmig, one of the project participants to bring an aspect from her own studies in peace and conflict to the group. At the same time, I started reading anything I could get my hands on. This would also help in writing grants and justifying the need for having a peacebuilding project focused on women.
3 – initiating the project – learning about M&E
I had started looking at grants to apply to for funding to be able to have a meeting in Sirince for our first retreat. It was the first time I was seeing what grant applications looked like and I was not sure what monitoring and evaluation meant. There were not many people I could go to in order to learn about this process, so I decided to educate myself by looking at different articles about these project cycle processes.
4 – initiating the project – applying for funding
This is an example of one of the proposals we wrote to secure funding for the project’s inception. We applied to the Heinrich Boell Foundation, but we did not receive funding from them for the start of the project. The following year (2014) we applied to the same organization again and given the success of the project in the year prior, we were able to convince the donor to support us so we could have the opportunity to meet for our second retreat in Aghdzq, Armenia.
5 – initiating the project – fundraising through crowdfunding
After a number of attempts to find funding by applying to grants and being rejected, I decided that I did not need permission from anyone in order to launch the project I was dreaming of manifesting. I took matters into my own hands and started a crowdfunding campaign on kickstarter. This was a great opportunity for me to create the poetry chapbook I had wanted to bring to life for a while. The chapbook, a t-shirt with my design and handwritten thank you cards were the rewards we offered to people who donated to the campaign.
6 – initiating the project – fundrising through crowdfunding
One of the rewards offered to people who donated 20$ or more to our online campaign was a hand-made t-shirt with the words “my sister’s keeper” as a feminist logo for building trust and solidarity among women. I had taken a silk-screening workshop while I was living in NYC in 2012 and decided that this would be great motivation to put those skills to use and create t-shirts for donors to the project.
1- start of plans – meeting in Yerevan 2013 winter
In 2013 four project participants from Turkey arrived in Yerevan for a face to face meeting with project participants from Armenia. We spent a few days getting to know each other, cooking and eating together, visiting some interesting places in the city as well as working together to make decisions about the process of the project, including plans for meeting in Sirince that summer for a week long retreat. We agreed that we would use oral stories as a method to gather stories from the group and other women we knew who were open and willing to talk about the topic of sexuality as it related to our lives and lived experiences.
2 – start of plans – meeting in Yerevan 2013 winter
Once we agreed that we would use oral history as a method, we started planning on how we would increase our knowledge and capacities on conducting oral story interviews. We decided to find two people with a good grasp of the concept to conduct workshops with participants in Turkey and participants in Armenia so that we would be able to go on and conduct interviews with one another and other women. We would then transcribe those interviews, translate them and be prepared with the stories before our retreat in Sirince.
3 – start of plans – meeting in Yerevan 2013 winter
We looked into what other oral history projects had been done across the Turkish-Armenian border and found the “Speaking to One Another” project and book as inspiration. As we planned how we would organize the project we brainstormed on some of the topics that we wanted to see reflected in the stories of women from both sides. We also discussed how we would work together as a team.
4 – start of plans – meeting in Yerevan 2013 winter
The planning process for the meeting in Sirince included discussions among participants, especially from Armenia, around security. For many of us it would be the first time we would find ourselves across the border in Turkey and many of us had been “scared off” by family, friends and the media about the danger of being Armenian in Turkey. This was also during the time of unrest in Istanbul especially as the Gezi protests had been brewing since the spring, so we decided to be cautious and have a “buddy system” in place once there to make sure we would keep track of one another at all times.
5 – start of plans – meeting in Yerevan 2013 winter
As we agreed on conducting interviews to collect stories, we also decided that performance would be another method through which we would work and bring those stories to life. We agreed that translation during the performance can create a barrier for us and the audience to feel the stories, so we decided that we would use body movemement and voice as methods instead.
1 – planning for our first retreat in Sirince (2013) – budget
Although we fundraised 6,500 USD online in order to be able to launch the project in 2013, the amount was still not enough to cover expenses for travel, accommodation and food for 10 participants in Sirince for a 12 week-long retreat (we were originally meant to be 12 participants). The Women’s Resource Center, an Armenian NGO, through which the project was initiated, supported with additional funding by way of their long-time donor, the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation. We were able to secure an additional 5,000 EUR in order to cover total costs.
2 – planning for our first retreat in Sirince (2013) – budget draft
This is an example of notes I took for drafting our budget for the Sirince retreat in 2013.
3 – planning for our first retreat in Sirince (2013) – organizing travel plans
This is an example of notes I took about how we would organize taxi pick-ups for participants from Armenia to arrive at the airport and fly to Turkey.
1 – Aghdzq retreat (2014) – thank you notes
These are some of the thank you and “see you again” notes I received from friends after the retreat in Aghdzq.
2 – Aghdzq retreat (2014) – notes and herbs from Defne
Defne gave me a noted package with herbs in Aghdzq for me to take home and to keep until our next meeting.
3 – Aghdzq retreat (2014) – evaluation
At the end of our retreat in Aghdzq we gathered to talk about the time we spent together and the results were written down and kept for our records.
1 – Buyukada retreat (2015)- bus ticket
In 2015 we traveled to Tbilisi in order to take a flight from Tbilisi to Istanbul for our third retreat, given that this was a cheaper option than flying from Yerevan.
2 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – flight tickets
This is an example of the flight tickets we purchased for our flight from Tbilisi to Istanbul in 2015 for our third retreat in Buyukada.
3 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – articles
These were some of the articles pertaining to the situation in Turkey in 2015 that I printed to take with me to our third retreat so we could read and take note of the context we were meeting in and continuing our project.
4 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – initial planning notes
These were some notes I took during skype calls prior to arriving in Buyukada with regards to logistics, content and ideas for our third retreat.
5 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – meditation for reflecting on the project
The Buyukada retreat had the main aim of reflecting on the project over the past 3 years and strategizing about how to continue with the project in the future. One method we used was to gather and meditate collectively on the meaning of the project for us, our role in it and our vision for the future of the project. These answers were then recorded to guide us in our future work.
6 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – strategizing notes
We used some of our time in Buyukada to look at some of the future plans we already had and some that we wanted to make. We were discussing about how we wanted to offer some of the body movement practices we had developed together with other groups seeking ways to build trust and solidarity. We were also trying to understand how we would continue with the performance aspect of our project.
7 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – future plans
We decided that in order to make the project sustainable and grow we would need to divide responsibilities among those of us interested in carrying the project forward. So groups were created for grant-writing, workshop development, performance and organizing retreats.
8 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – I want to live poem
During the retreat in Buyukada we decided to join the activists occupying Kamp Armen in order to show our solidarity with them especially given that 2015 was the centennial of the Armenian genocide. In addition to this, the overall context in Turkey was becoming more repressive as the Turkish state was enforcing violent policies toward the Kurdish people living mainly in the east of Turkey. While we were in Kamp Armen we recited the poem “I want to live” by Shushanik Kurghinian and sang a Kurdish song as part of our ritual-like performance there.
9 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – art by Milena
Throughout the days we spent together in Buyukada, we also did some body movement and meditation workshops. During one of those workshops I drew a picture presented here.
10 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – art by Kara
Another picture is presented here, drawn by Kara during one of our workshops in Buyukada.
11 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – a note from Hasmig
This is a note I received from Hasmig along with a beautiful miniature drawer filled with papers that contained quotes by Hafez and Kahlil Gibran.
12 – Buyukada retreat (2015) – return bus tickets
These are receipts from the Havatas bus service as we took the return bus to the Istanbul airport once the retreat was finished.