Turkish AFS Volunteers Launch New Grassroots Initiative

Humankind has always imagined the future. We imagined a more secure cave as a shelter. We imagined more food, a warmer home. We imagined vehicles that go on their own and to fly. As we approached the 21st century, we imagined trips to Mars, colonies in space, time machines. We imagined Back to the Future’s and Jetsons. None of us really imagined that in the year 2016, the world would be so cruel and so much in pain, that we would feel so helpless and still yearning for peace.

Ask any AFS volunteer anywhere in the world what our mission is and he will form you a sentence that will include the phrases “world peace” and “intercultural understanding”. That is why, for years, we assess students, chaperone their orientations, find host families and provide counselling. Yet, we see that our efforts bring us nowhere near our goal, that peaceful world. Are we going to give up? No! But in order not to let “world peace” be just a cliché in beauty pageants, something different needs to be done.

What is the Volunteers Association of Turkey?

AFS Gonulluleri Dernegi (AFSGD, AFS Volunteers Association) is an independent and officially registered NGO founded in 1999 by the Turkish AFS returnees, families and others who shared the AFS mission. AFSGD aimed at gathering all the Turkish AFS’ers as well as others who believed in the same understanding of ”peace” under the same roof. The membership is open to everyone who fulfil the legal requirements.  Also a small membership fee has to be paid to complete the process. The administrative structure of AFSGD is composed of a central board and local boards of official branches in principal cities. The members of the boards are elected by the votes of member volunteers at the general assemblies held every two years.

Our volunteers, as in all AFS countries, carry out all the volunteer based works of AFS Programs in Turkey. Turk Kultur Vakfi, TKV, is the legal partner organisation of AFS Intercultural Programs, but AFSGD and TKV work very closely with each other especially in running the AFS Programs nationwide. AFSGD provides a concrete body to communicate volunteers’ wishes and opinions to TKV. In return, TKV offers the much appreciated structural and financial support to the volunteers.

With over 500 registered members and office staff, apart from the AFS work, we are working hard to create an effective impact on those who do not get a chance to participate in AFS exchanges. To achieve this, volunteers develop projects for different age groups and socio-economic levels throughout the country.

AFS Volunteers launch the KArE initiative

We have no objection to use AFS as an acronym for another fat student, we all enjoy having some fun. However, we should not be forgetting the origins of our organisation: Field Service. We may no longer need to carry the physically wounded from the battle fields. But in one hundred years, battle fields have transformed, so have the wounded. There are still millions out there looking for a helping hand.

For this very reason, to be able to do something more, to serve peace more effectively, Turkish AFS Volunteers are going back to the field. We dare to imagine change the world and we dare to act on it. And to make that real, we launch the KArE (kültürlerarası etkileşim – intercultural interaction) initiative.

Our aim is to bring all those who wish to work for peace, and see intercultural contact as the means to do this, under one roof. We aim to focus on developing new programs, bigger projects; reach parts of the map we could not reach before, enable more people to touch each other. It is a new organisational system focusing on the mission and not a program, open to everyone who share our common goal. We want to share our experience and enthusiasm with anyone wishing to do the same. Our projects are lining up and we are anxious to get started.

Years ago, we started this journey saying “walk together, talk together”. Now we are saying we need to talk to even more people, walk much faster. Then and only then shall we have peace.


This update has been shared with us by AFS Volunteers from Turkey. You may contact AFSGD at info@afsgonulluleri.org or www.facebook.com/afsgd