AFS International would like to share this message from the National Director of AFS Turkey, Derya Komitoglu Kaplan. She appreciates the many expressions of support and care that she has received from the global AFS Community – 500,000+ alumni, 50,000 volunteers, and 55 Partner Offices – and wanted to share an update from on the ground with AFSers around the world. 

The great disaster my country went through and is still going through is very hard to explain, and I am incredibly sad while I write this. The earthquake that shook 10 cities in the eastern and southeastern part of Turkey and a part of northern Syria is, for us, the disaster of the century.

The earthquake started early on Monday, February 6, 2023 at 4 AM, unfortunately catching most people in their sleep.

From the very beginning, AFS Turkey organized our volunteers and staff to actively contribute any help that was needed. AFS volunteers who speak various languages thanks to their AFS experiences abroad were responsible for meeting the foreign rescue teams at the airport in Istanbul, taking them to the field and helping them whenever needed. We are also in close contact with the relevant government authorities and other NGOs.

AFS Turkey
AFS volunteers supporting the rescue teams on the ground

AFS exchange students who are hosted in Turkey are all safe. Their host families and volunteers who support them are also doing well, and are not physically affected by the earthquake. We have gathered all our hosted exchange students in Istanbul in volunteer families for a short exchange to ensure they are doing well and are receiving the support they need.

Unfortunately, we have lost one of our dear volunteers, Ege Okant, who studied abroad with AFS in Costa Rica and spent many years working to advance the AFS mission. She lost her life in Malatya. We are devastated that she couldn’t come out of the rubble of her house safely. We thank AFSers around the world for sending their condolences. We will continue to share all your messages with Ege’s family.

This continues to be a very hard and heart-breaking time, but we know that we will come out of it and continue to work to make things better for what’s left behind in the affected area. We are very grateful for all your kind messages and support. They are very valuable and encourage us to keep going.

Please keep the suffering people in your prayers, and direct your support in any way you can.