What is ARÇ (Emergency and Disaster Interpreters)?
History and Purpose
ARÇ (Afette Rehber Çevirmenlik- Emergency and Disaster Interpreters), founded in 1999 in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in the Marmara Region, is an initiative that provides and coordinates the interpreting services at disasters and emergencies on a voluntary basis. ARÇ developed into an organisation serving in cooperation with the Civil Defence Directorate in İstanbul at the time after the first training seminars held at the beginning of 2000 at the Faculty of Letters of İstanbul University. ARÇ composed an organisational structure that enabled its volunteer workforce of interpreters to be prepared for quick emergency and disaster response.
ARÇ Organisation has been officially affiliated with the Translation and Interpreting Association – Türkiye (Çeviri Derneği) since the beginning for effective and fast disaster response, maintaining its autonomous structure and principles. The protocol of cooperation signed in March 2001 between ARÇ Organisation of the Translation and Interpreting Association and the Governorate and Civil Defence Directorate of İstanbul served for an effective and fast disaster response when the need occurred. The emergence of ARÇ as a product of a tri-partite cooperation structure (university-NGO-government institutions) confirms the above-mentioned purpose of maintaining a fast disaster response in the area of international communication and interpreting.
ARÇ membership and accession to ARÇ activities have been organised by a procedure different from that of the Translation and Interpreting Association considering the special needs of communication under the emergency and disaster conditions
Below is the definition of the special organisational structure of ARÇ as defined in the ‘ARÇ Regulations of the Translation and Interpreting Association:
“ARÇ is a volunteer organisation, affiliated with the Translation and Interpreting Association -officially represented by the Association and autonomous in its inner mechanism- founded for the purpose of taking fast and appropriate action to offer and assist communication and interpreting services at disasters and emergencies (…) ARÇ is open to cooperation with the other organisations and NGOs at the disaster and emergency sites. ARÇ members can provide support at the pre-disaster phase on a voluntary basis within their capacities in keeping with the principles of cooperation and assistance between institutions and organisations.”
The above statement means that ARÇ, although affiliated with the Translation and Interpreting Organisation, has the capability to follow an organisational structure at the operation phase that enables the coordination of the NGOs in the course of providing interpreting services for foreign rescue and humanitarian assistance teams to arrive as part of international assistance. So far the ARÇ activities were carried out with the above principle in mind and productive results were thus achieved with principled autonomy.
ARÇ Volunteers and Action Plan
ARÇ aims at coordinating the communication and interpreting services needed in the field in demanded languages during emergencies and disasters in accordance with the purposes and plans. As an organisation, ARÇ holds training seminars for that end. In emergency and disaster situations, the coordination of interpreting volunteers is undertaken by the ARÇ Assignment Unit at the centre of operation and by the ARÇ representatives at the site. The work done in this respect includes: assessing the interpreting demand; establishing communication with the official bodies and NGOs; deploying interpreters and providing support for those deployed to the disaster site.
Emergency and disaster interpreting has peculiar conditions and challenges of its own. The most important aspect of providing interpreting services during disasters is the capacity of deploying eligible volunteers to the points of demand as quickly as possible. ARÇ Organisation holds training seminars that aim at preparing its volunteers for emergency and disaster interpreting tasks and participates in national and international disaster preparedness and response drills. ARÇ participated in November 2021 MODEX (EU-Civil Protection Mechanism) drill in Tekirdağ, which was the biggest of its kind held in Türkiye.
ARÇ was awarded the Communication Award of Kongre Magazine in 2001 and was chosen and awarded as a Changemaker by Sabancı Foundation in 2012.
Another crucial point regarding translation tasks in disaster conditions is the ability to assign qualified translators to relevant areas quickly.
How it Began
ARÇ initiative was started in 2000 with the training seminars given at İstanbul University, which were followed by Hacettepe and Dokuz Eylül Universities. The training seminars were expanded in time to many other locations in the country with the active support of the academics.
So far, hundreds of volunteers have been given emergency and disaster interpreting training at various levels. ARÇ organisation itself got expanded in several cities to assume many tasks in parallel with the training and the increasing number of volunteers over the years.
ARÇ currently has many members and representatives in a number of cities. Its basic workforce of volunteers has been organised in İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir.
ARÇ participated in many disaster drills as well as conducting its own field training activities and drills.
ARÇ provided translation and interpreting support for several emergencies and disasters (earthquake, fire, refugees, epidemics and the like), as well as preparatory activities (such as disaster response guidelines, international conferences, accreditation exams and drills) at domestic and international levels. ARÇ Organisation served actively as a volunteer interpreting organisation at Van Earthquake in 2011 having participated in the response process in full capacity.
ARÇ was quick to deploy its eligible volunteers and capacity to the site on 6 February 2023, immediately after the Kahramanmaraş earthquakes which led to unprecedented devastation, destruction, fatalities and casualties. ARÇ, thus, displayed its capacity of deploying volunteer interpreters to the site, at its highest level so far, cooperating with NGOs in the field of interpreting and also by coordinating the additional volunteer lists when the need occurred.
Becoming an ARÇ member:
ARÇ is a volunteer organisation open to all eligible volunteers fluent in Turkish and at least in one another language.
Contact: ARÇ Assignment Unit
You can become a volunteer of ARÇ Organisation by filling out the application form in the following link. The language of the form is Turkish:
Those who sign the application form will be included in the ARÇ communication network through which they learn about the announcements, updates and messages. Please note that the language of the network is Turkish. You can get further involved in ARÇ by participating in the ARÇ training programs and activities.