Our Story

Where Founder's Journey Meets the Mission of Vuslat Foundation

The story of Vuslat Foundation is a tapestry of two intertwined journeys: one is deeply personal, the other is a broader quest for meaningful transformation in the world. These two journeys converged to give birth to an organization founded on the principle of generous listening.

Vuslat Doğan Sabancı stands with Giuseppe Penone in front of his artwork, 'The Listener'

Personal Odyssey: Pursuit of Inner Freedom

Vuslat's lifelong pursuit of freedom, evolving through rebellion, media advocacy, and passion for human rights, culminated in the birth of the Vuslat Foundation.

At the heart of our story lies the personal journey of our founder, Vuslat. For Vuslat, the pursuit of “freedom” was an enduring theme that permeated every stage of life. Each time it seemed within grasp, it would elude, manifesting itself in a different form, setting her on yet another quest This personal odyssey of seeking “freedom” was not just her story; it was a profound exploration of inner freedom, a quest that would ultimately inspire the birth of the Vuslat Foundation.

In the early years, for Vuslat, the pursuit of freedom manifested as rebellion against authority. Yet, this was only the beginning. Her career in media became a platform for championing freedom of expression, constantly striving to improve the quality of conversations held within society. It was here that Vuslat’s journey toward inner freedom began to take shape, guided by the desire to make a tangible difference in the lives of others.

But the media, while a powerful realm for fostering freedom in its diverse forms, wasn’t the sole calling. Vuslat’s true passion lay in human rights, women’s rights, and the unwavering belief that freedom was not just about fundamental liberties but also the right to be heard.

Compassionate Presence: A Turning Point

A pivotal moment, sparked by an email from a Sudanese journalist, compelled Vuslat to transcend reporting and embody compassionate presence, laying the foundation for the foundation.

The pivotal moment arrived in 2009 when she was the CEO of Hürriyet, Türkiye’’s leading daily newspaper. An email from Lubna al-Huseyin, a Sudanese journalist, changed everything. Lubna had been arrested and faced corporal punishment merely for wearing trousers. Her call for help was a cry not just for personal justice but for the rights of all Sudanese women and girls.

Vuslat could not stand by idly. The call of compassionate presence was stronger than the pull of mere reporting. It led her to Sudan, a move that emphasized the importance of bearing witness to another’s struggle, to stand by someone in their moment of need.

This experience was transformative, underscoring the power of presence. It showed her that generous listening, not just reporting, was a profound form of support. Lubna’s courage lit the way for a new generation of women fighting for equal freedoms, highlighting that while the desire for freedom is universal, each of us is on a unique journey.

The Transformative Alchemy of Listening

Vuslat's quest for inner freedom extended to empathetic conversations with diverse backgrounds, demonstrating the power of generous listening.

The quest for inner freedom was not limited to Vuslat’s external actions. It extended inward, towards the ‘Others’ within.The path of listening, empathetic and without judgment, led Vuslat to engage in conversations with people from vastly different backgrounds and experiences. She listened to women who chose religiously conservative lives and female brothel owners in Anatolia. She sat with survivors of domestic violence and conversed with murderers who had committed femicide. These encounters not only expanded Vuslat’s own understanding but also shaped a broader vision of what it means to listen generously.

One of the most transformative moments occurred during a visit to a women’s shelter in Izmir. There, she discovered the true power of presence. This encounter, far different from previous shelter visits, emphasized the simple act of being there to listen. It demonstrated that surrendering to the act of listening, without judgment or the pressure to provide solutions, was itself a powerful form of support.

As Vuslat navigated this personal journey, she uncovered the transformative alchemy of listening, a practice known in Türkiye as “listening with your heart’s ear.” This was not just about hearing words; it was about opening the heart to understand beyond spoken language.

Freedom Redefined: The Birth of Vuslat Foundation

The realization that true freedom involves the right to be heard transformed the concept, emphasizing generous listening as a tool for personal growth and societal change, culminating in the establishment of the Vuslat Foundation in 2020.

The culmination of these journeys was a revelation. She came to understand that the pursuit of freedom extended beyond the fight for fundamental rights and liberties. True freedom was about the right to be heard, a fundamental need for feeling acknowledged and understood.

This realization expanded the concept of freedom itself, transforming it into a journey that encompassed the ability to listen generously to those with differing perspectives and experiences. It became clear that the walls we construct around us as individuals and societies do not protect us, but rather limit us. Generous listening manifested as not only a foundation for personal growth but also as a tool for substantive social change.

In 2020, she established the Vuslat Foundation towards actualizing this transformative vision. The foundation’s mission is to foster deeper connections within individuals, between individuals, and with nature. Central to this mission is the practice of generous listening.

Vuslat’s name signifies the joy of reuniting estranged parts of the greater whole. It seems that time was needed to circle back and embrace the hints hidden in this name. Today, the Vuslat Foundation strives to build a transformative movement that places generous listening at the heart of our lives.

This journey is not Vuslat's alone, but is an invitation for everyone and anyone who wishes to walk this path, to join us in fostering a world where listening generously is a way of life, where understanding and empathy flourish, where every voice is valued, and where connections are forged through deeply shared moments.