My Finsbury Park: Gul Kocak

Gul Kocak co-founder of the Islington Turkish, Cypriot and Kurdish Women’s Welfare Association

Image of Gul Kocak

Gul is the inspiring force behind the Islington Turkish, Cypriot and Kurdish Women’s Welfare Association, which she co founded thirty years ago. She describes combatting social isolation with food, song and seaside visits.

“I founded the association with a social worker friend back in 1987, to help women who were isolated at home. We went door to door to ask them to join us. Sometimes the husbands objected, but we asked them too! They could see that we were helping their wives, with social events but also with practical things such as housing benefit and disability forms.

We offer assistance with medical issues – we have regular visits from a breast cancer nurse, a mental health nurse and a dietician. And the police come to talk to us about drugs, so we can try to identify if our children might have a problem.

But we have a lot of fun too – we’re also a social club. We run a traditional dance group and a choir – we performed for International Women’s day at Hackney Council. There’s a cooking project every Thursday, after which we sit round a long table and eat the results, and we’ve even had a laughter therapist visit.  Occasionally we get out of town to go fruit picking, we and visit the seaside in Brighton once a year.

I’m very proud and happy that we now have 380 members, between the ages of 19 and 85. Everyone is welcome here – the sense of community is very strong.”