Some clichés are usually said about a place, which is become a subject of a conversation, such as “You must visit there and don’t come back without stopping by”. It is almost impossible to refrain from using such clichés in an essay dedicated to portray the Deliler Coffeehouse. It is one of the must-see places to be visited and to be mentioned in friendly conversations.
We are between those who certainly drop around there. We reached there taking curved and somehow rumbling and worn streets of Cibali to Fatih neighborhood, where humble people live far from the glory of the city, where the craftsmen sit on the banks of the streets and play backgammon, where laundry lines tighten up between the frame houses. I wonder why its name is the Deliler Coffeehouse. The question in our mind about the place whether it is related to Melami or Sufism increased by putting our step in the place. There is a saying “crazy girl’s bundle” to describe untidy and mixed places. The Deliler Coffeehouse is cut out of this saying. We focused on every detail in the decoration astonishingly one by one. Dozens of swings, pendulum-like decorative items hanging down from the ceiling which give the impression of an antique dealer or the décor store of a movie set rather than a coffeehouse. Later, we learn that these objects were originally brought from four corners of the world and each of them was for sale to finance the kindness movement undertaken by the Deliler ve Veliler Derneği (Association of Madness and Saints), the social project of the Deliler Coffeehouse.
Mad or Sufi?
The coffeehouse gives an unusual and frame-breaking impression to those who visit there at the first time. As if customers are not real customers, employees welcome visitors in as if they were inviting one of their family member or a close friend. Ali Denizci, who established the coffeehouse and started the whole organization of the goodness movement, starts to explain.
“The Deliler Coffeehouse is actually a showcase of a heartfelt movement that has changed its shell several times over time. It started in 2009 with Derviş Baba Deliler Abdallar and Meczuplar Kahvehanesi, which we established with Musa Dede and Tayyar Usta to extend a love hand to people in need and living on the street. In the course of time, this activity became a growing movement of goodness, where thousands of good people were chasing. In 2016, the movement got its present form and name, the Deliler Coffeehouse”.
The inscription on the entrance door of the coffeehouse draws attention. However, the phrase “Deliler” (madmen) refers to some of the irony, a humor, and tragedy of the marginalized people. He continues with an exciting special to people who are proud of his work, explaining the text on the door.
“It is written on the door where to be seen easily by people who step in: Hello every check you pay at this coffee shop goes to help a person. How Does? We work here on a voluntary basis. We also use all the revenue of the coffeehouse to meet the needs of stranded people to make them reach their destination.”
A Heartfelt Movement
“Although the Deliler Coffeehouse is part of an organization operating under the roof of the association, everything goes on a voluntary basis. All the commercial income of the coffeehouse is combined with the income from other charitable channels and interferes with the hearts of the people in need. This is a place of intellectual unity that leads those who stranded to reach their destination, without making any discrimination basing religion, language, race and gender. Unfortunately, in the modern world, it is not easy to understand the works of such people. That’s why we are eager to emphasize this at every platform. This is the platform of harmony that the volunteer with common social sensitivities meets at first by sharing the ideas from mouth to mouth, then meet via the social media, and that brings together their effort, money, time, and most importantly their hearts.”
Sweeping The Own Door At First
First of all, the social environment where the coffeehouse is located is determined as the target. They provide regular food aid to those in need of help in their region, rent a house for the homeless, protect women and children who are victims of violence, teach Turkish to Syrian children, take the madmen of the neighborhood and let them have bath and take care of them, and help whoever in need or trouble. Besides they do all of these in elegant manner as sincerely considering the duty of them.
“In fact, what we do here is not a great blessing for humanity. If there is a deprivation that we witness in social life, and if this problem can be solved via a little intervention of us, we take action instead of turning our back and ignoring it, that is all. These are not so big things most of the time. A diaper, formula, a small scholarship for a student in need to continue their education. In order to witness the change in people’s lives, it may not necessarily provide material help all the time. Sometimes it’s just enough to listen and approve. ”
It reminds me immediately that such a kind of goodness is a humanitarian task and in fact, it is not a one-way action but a cooperative action. “All these activities, the donations, is not only to save the needy from the difficulties but because we see what we receive as we live. Because we aware that better word can be possible by sharing in cooperation.”
A Domino Effect In Goodness
“Doing a favor to someone else means actually doing favor oneself.” This is the fundamental sentence in our minds from what Ali Denizci told and the natural environment of the Deliler Coffeehouse which far from luxury, which promises the spiritual comfort rather than physical comfort. A window of mysticism carrying the color of a little of Sufism and a little of Bektashism, in front of our eyes. Rather than establishing a cause-effect relationship to be good, instead of searching for reasons and producing excuses, taking action as soon as possible, giving without taking are more humanitarian behavior, no doubt. We wonder the beginning of the Deliler Coffeehouse where arrogance, ego, selfishness cannot enter.
Kindness Is Contagious
“Everything started in a small shop. We plastered it together with the homeless, the drunks, the mad people of the neighborhood, painted the walls, and set the parquets. Then we provided unconditional help to everyone in need. We started with the madmen first. That’s where the story goes. We took them to the baths, provided clean clothes, and then we reached out to the homeless of Sulukule wrecking who live in the parks and streets. We rented houses in Balat for dozens of families. Houses were completed, shops were rented and furnished. The nature of the kindness was actually contagious, and we learned that on this occasion. Then everyone started to ask, ‘Can we do something? The kindness that triggered each other has brought us to this day. Now, we do not only meet the fundamental needs of the needs such as eating, drinking, dwelling and the health, instead, we organize music lessons, foreign language education, reading and writing classes mostly for children on the upper floor of the coffeehouse. As in every activity, volunteers are responsible for all of this.”
Increase By The Way Of Decreasing
The Deliler Coffeehouse is a place where people who are accustomed to taking and having more, understand how giving and donating is an experience that glorifies the soul. Volunteers who met with the Deliler ve Veliler Association through the coffeehouse, discover the spirit-cleansing aspects of unrequited goodness here for the first time. Hands of love, compassion and help unite and multiply as they give. They learn how to be rich without decreasing. What we said in the beginning, even if you don’t stop by, come and be a drop in the ocean to the movement of goodness in the Deliler Coffeehouse and increase by the way of decreasing.
The Deliler Coffeehouse located in the Fatih Cibali district in Istanbul has a very nice feature that separates it from the cafes and restaurants we are used to. The gates of the coffeehouse are open to madman, fancy man and the needy to let them to go their way. The river of goodness flows from prosperity to poverty kept the place alive for years.
You’re responsible for everything you see and hear! Either you’re aware of your responsibility and hold the edge of the stone, or you turn your back and go. If you choose the latter, you have no right to complain about anything you’ve had. This is a bigger sin. How does one live with such a sin?
“If You See And Hear You Are Responsible!”
The long text including the mission and working principles of the Deliler Coffeehouse which are located on the door are very nice, but the three words above the text striking people from the heart: “If you see and hear, you are responsible.” This saying has also been the motto of the Deliler ve Veliler Derneği. It is proof that they are responsible for what they see, what they hear, and that all these good people act with similar feelings of responsibility.
What Kind Of Targets Were Reached Through Deliler ve Veliler Association (The Deliler Coffeehouse)?
273,000 people were fed in the soup kitchen, 27,000 families were allocated food, 3,800 children were taken to social and cultural activities, hospital health care and expenses of 2,300 needy persons were met, 864 students were given scholarships, 13,140 needy persons were given clothes, 700 persons were given private lessons by the volunteer tutors, courses were arranged for 648 children, 1,016 people were provided shelter in the guesthouse, psychological support was provided to 408 persons, boots and winter equipment were sent to students in 457 needy districts and villages, stationery was provided to 23,000 students, 54,000 children were dressed in festivals, 733 families were provided with household goods, and numerous of street animals were cared.
*This article was published in the November-December issue of Marmara Life.