Volunteer army of disaster agency exceeds 500,000
Fevzi Kızılkoyun - ANKARA
More than half a million volunteers have been enrolled in courses organized regularly by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), according to official data.
Every Turkish citizen could apply for an online training program on AFAD’s website.
Upon completion of the six online courses, citizens are encouraged to apply for field training at provincial AFAD directorates.
AFAD gives training for search and rescue (five days), first aid (two days), humanitarian assistance (two days), fire awareness (one day) and tenting (half a day).
Physics engineer and registered AFAD volunteer Nazım Çabuk said that their base motivation is to gain awareness and be capable of “coming to someone’s assistance in a time of need.”
“You think that a living thing, either a human, a cat, or a dog, could need you in a disaster area. You become a person with a real disaster awareness,” he added.
Fatma Somuncuoğlu Erkan, a 45-year-old teacher, was among the AFAD volunteers who rushed to the district of Bozkurt in the Black Sea province of Kastamonu after the flash floods caused casualties and heavy damage in August last year.
“Going there and helping others gave me peace beyond words. You work for your country and people. You help them. What else could be better than that?”
She added that she was not thinking of attending the field training sessions in the first place but changed her mind after the online courses were completed.
Büşra Nur Bulmuş called on everyone to apply to AFAD’s programs, saying that “We should run to help in times of disasters instead of sitting back and grieving.”
“Social consciousness should be raised,” she stressed.
Fahrettin Sürücü, a retired soldier and an occupational safety specialist, said that he wanted to share the experiences he has gained during his career.
“We should always be prepared for disasters. The people’s awareness should be raised about this,” he noted.
Nearly 500 AFAD volunteers showed up when an earthquake struck the district of Seferihisar in the Aegean province of İzmir. The number increased to 900 during the flash floods in the Black Sea provinces last year. Volunteers also took part in the social support groups established during the COVID-19 pandemic.