Bringing the Clubhouse Model to Turkey: HPC Fellow, Kerim Arhan, Clubhouse International

Kerim Arhan is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with Clubhouse International. While with Clubhouse International, Kerim traveled to Oslo to see the Clubhouse model in action and bring expertise to the process of starting his own Clubhouse in Turkey. Read on to learn about his placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow.

From my perspective, mental health issues are a part of daily life regardless of psycho-social or socioeconomic context. Most of us experience declining mental health sometime during our lifetime. The Clubhouse communities around the world work to change the perspective on mental health. Mental illness can strike relentlessly and cause isolation, despair, and shame. It lies within the Clubhouse culture to mitigate these consequences and support individuals in taking charge of their own destiny, building confidence, and ultimately becoming an active part of the community that they live in. The Clubhouse model does this through many Clubhouses around the world. A Clubhouse is a psycho-social, work-oriented rehabilitation center, named in reference to Fountain House, the first Clubhouse which opened in New York in the mid 1940s.

I started working in a Clubhouse located in my hometown in Malmö, Sweden in 2014. Coming from a background in occupational therapy, combined with the Clubhouse standards and values, I felt right at home. As time went on, my dual background led me to ponder the idea of starting a Clubhouse in the multicultural and metropolitan city of Istanbul, Turkey. I initiated this process in the beginning of 2019. The response was filled with excitement and curiosity from people that had a professional or private concern with mental health. I got in contact with Clubhouse International for support which eventually led to me coming on board with the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program.

The fellowship has made it possible for me to broaden my perspective on the Clubhouse model and deepen my understanding of the organizational structures necessary to start a new Clubhouse. My goal is to build a strong community based on the standards and values that the organization represents, with emphasis on the element that I believe in the most. That element is rehabilitation that begins with meaningful occupation through which we build friendship and community - an act of balance that distinguishes the model. I have gained invaluable networks, tools and knowledge through continuous tutoring sessions and guidance with representatives and directors around the world on all aspects of the organisation. I was also privileged to join a one week training program with the Mosaic Clubhouse in London. It gave me the opportunity to meet with members, staff, directors, and board members locally as well as from Estonia, Ireland, and Gibraltar. This served as a platform for in depth discussions and reflections with individuals from a vast array of backgrounds and experiences.

The learning process has also served as the guiding force behind the development and content for the meetings with the group of  individuals that are engaged in the startup process of my Clubhouse. I recently traveled to Turkey to initiate the opening of an NGO with assistance from professionals that have generously shared their knowledge in law and on starting NGOs. The trip also consisted of a meeting to create a vision statement for our project. At this point in the process I needed advice on recruiting a board for the purpose of starting a Clubhouse, hence it was arranged for me to travel to Oslo which has two Clubhouses and a third one in development all by the same team. Visiting their Clubhouses, speaking with their team, and getting insight into their organizations gave me essential insight and information on the next steps to come. I feel ready to break new ground and provide a vulnerable group  in Turkey with a complementary, safe, and dignified platform on which to grow and regain access to one's abilities for the benefit of the individuals, families, and society. The Clubhouse model is one with limitless potential to spread in the country to prevent stigma and promote equality.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit, or Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Subscribe to the HPC Newsletter