Infusing international flair is this lady's passion

Familiar Faces
By: Menka Belgal, Telegraph Correspondent
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Cigdem Askin was born in Bandir-ma, Turkey, and moved to the United States in 1985 seeking a better life. Shortly after moving to El Dorado Hills in 2003, she realized that the area was lacking in multi-cultural activities. Once her children became more independent, she decided to fulfill her dream. Last year, she organized El Dorado Hills? very first International Festival at Oak Meadow. This year, the festival was held at Rolling Hills Middle School and was even bigger than the previous year. Askin estimates she devoted 90 percent of her time toward the event over three months. What do you enjoy most about organizing the International Festival? Gathering team of multicultural volunteers, creating an environment and opportunity for our children to enhance their education, and most importantly teamwork! What were you doing before your children were born? I worked for medical device manufacturing firm in Davis for 10 years in their regulatory and quality assurance department. What are some of the most interesting things that have happened to you? I survived drowning accidents twice. Once when I was 3 and another time when I was 5. I learned how to naturally dye, spin and weave handmade rugs in second grade. What are your favorite places to visit? Hawaii and Turkish vacation resorts. Hawaii reminds me of Turkey a lot with the beachside restaurants, the surrounding seas, beaches and people walking everywhere. Do you give back to the community? I volunteer in my children?s district schools, El Dorado Hills Library (Cultural Reading Summer Program), Hands4Hope and the Sacramento Chapter of Turkish American Association of California. What hobbies do you enjoy? I love cooking, scrap-booking, crafts, organizing events, gardening and nature walks. I?ve done after-school enrichment cooking classes at preschool, elementary and middle schools and through the El Dorado Hills Community Services District. Tell us about your family. I have a wonderful husband Serdar, who also volunteers in the community by coaching soccer. We will be celebrating our 21st anniversary this year and have four beautiful children: Murat, 12, Burak, 9, Aylin, 8, and my baby boy Arda who is 5. What are you most proud of? My wonderful husband and four children who are very supportive and share my passion about life happenings. What causes are you passionate about? I am passionate about multi-cultural experiences. I like to share my culture and attend international festivals in the area. I am also passionate about helping in needy families through organization like Hands4Hope and friends. I have friends and family members who are going through cancer treatments that I try to give a hand by either preparing meals, or helping them out with babysitting or be there for whatever they need. What are some things that people might be surprised to learn? Because my dad was an elementary teacher and he had to teach in village schools before he could teach at city schools, we lived in a village of 18 homes when I was (young). All the (schools) grades were in one big room. We had grade tables rather than classrooms and I was always my dad?s little assistant. After school, I would sneak out to learn how to spin, dye wool and weave handmade rugs. Then I taught it to my parents which became a small family business for additional income. I also worked in tobacco and cotton fields picking tobacco leaves. That?s probably why I don?t smoke. I know what goes into our lungs. I co-founded the Sacramento Chapter of Turkish American Association of California. I am also the founder of Sacramento?s first on the go cooking classes. I?m also one of the first generation Turkish (born in Turkey) in our family. My father was born in Bulgaria and was forced to move to Turkey in 1941 because of communism. If you were to write a book about your life, what would some of the chapters include? Writing a book is actually my dream. I can?t give it all away but it will be inspirational, full of courage and survival stories. It will include my grandparent?s escape from Bulgaria during communism and their survival in the refugee camps in Savastepe, Turkey, before settling in Bandirma, Turkey.