Ayşe Tükrükçü knows what it is like to sleep on the streets and eat whatever she could find. She rose up and is now ready to help “people who are ignored by society” with Hayata Sarıl Lokantası.

Ayşe Tükrükçü has not had an easy life. She was a victim of sexual violence at the age of nine and her own husband forced her into sexwork at a brothel. Tükrükçü managed to get out, but she had to live on the streets for months and could not even take a shower for 38 days, eating what people left behind at McDonald’s to survive. But she did not surrender to hopelessness, and she has now become a hope for others.

Tükrükçü managed to stand up on her own two feet. While she was sleeping in hospital yards, one night at Taksim İlk Yardım, another at the German Hospital, she started being a sitter for patients to earn money. Then she moved on to washing dishes at restaurants, building herself back up from scratch.

However, Tükrükçü has not forgotten what she has gone through and how hard it was to survive on the streets. You might have heard of the charity project Çorbada Tuzun Olsun (Let You Have Salt in Your Soup). “Through Şefkat-Der, we started giving out soup for the homeless,” Tükrükçü explains. That is when she met Dilara Z. Moran and others who later joined Tükrükçü to realize her dream to give to those society chooses not to see.

Ayşe Tükrükçü

A new start for the forgotten ones

First came Hayata Sarıl Derneği (Embrace Life Foundation), then its first project, Hayata Sarıl Lokantası (Embrace Life Restaurant). This project will not only assist people in need, but also give them the skills to help themselves. The homeless, former sexworkers, alcoholics—those who are ignored by the society, as Tükrükçü refers to them—will start working here to build themselves up and prepare for a career, just as she did. It is an opportunity for them to “regain the responsibility of their lives.”

Hayata Sarıl Lokantası is the first step into their second life. Mutfak Sanatları Akademisi (Culinary Arts Academy) is going to teach them kitchen basics. Melis Aran, the restaurant’s permanent chef, will provide guidance. “We are in touch with three or four people right now and we will arrange their initial accommodation,” says Moran, who is actively working on the project. But the support will last only until they are ready to stand on their own. With this restaurant’s name on their CV, they will bill be prepared to go out on their own and leave their space to other people in need.

Join to help

Prominent figures in the restaurant industry are ready to help as well. Istanbul’s leading chefs such as Maksut Aşkar, Şemsa Denizsel, Didem Şenol, and others have promised to contribute to the restaurant. Some of these chefs’ well-known dishes will be featured at the restaurant.

Beyoğlu was specifically selected for the restaurant, as Tükrükçü explains, “It’s where the most homeless are. We are aware of Beyoğlu’s decrease in popularity, and if we can contribute to restoring it, we would also be glad,” Moran says. The restaurant is close to neighborhoods with old residents like Zencefil. “When you come here for us, revisit the classics around here,” Moran adds.

“We are doing it, where are you?” Tükrükçü invites all of us to be a part of this noble act. Contributions can be as simple as eating at Hayata Sarıl Lokantası.  

Support the project

This restaurant is Hayata Sarıl Derneği’s first project, and they plan to do more. They need your support to do more and keep the current project on course. You can provide direct support for the foundation with a donation to Hayata Sarıl Derneği (IBAN: TR 41 0004 6001 9888 8000 0862 11; Akbank Cihangir Şubesi 0198 0086211).

Hayata Sarıl Lokantası opens Monday-Saturday, 11am-7pm. Kurabiye Sokak No.3/1, Beyoğlu; T: 0553 913 13 50; hayatasaril.org