NOTE from ARÇ, 22 Feb 2023

ARÇ (Afette Rehber Çevirmenlik – the Emergency and Disaster Interpreters) is a voluntary organization affiliated with the Translation and Interpreting Association of Türkiye (Çeviri Derneği). ARÇ was created in the aftermath of the devastating 1999 earthquake in Marmara region of Türkiye. The goal of ARÇ is to facilitate international communication in case of an emergency or disaster and provide planned and organized interpretation assistance in several languages. Currently, the organization has nearly 1000 members.

The main management body of ARÇ is the Assignment Unit comprising distributed central coordinators who are responsible for managing the corps of volunteers, planning and organizing trainings, liaising and coordinating with respective national institutions (e.g. AFAD-Turkish NEMA) and international humanitarian organizations, planning and executing disaster interpretation operations. The unit first deploys trained and experienced field coordinators to impacted areas in case of a disaster who manage channeling of volunteer interpreters to respective international SAR and relief teams in close cooperation with national and local authorities and then continues with overall coordination with field coordinators.

As disaster and emergency interpreting comes with peculiar needs and challenges, ARÇ plans and organizes targeted trainings at various levels of the organization. The scope of trainings varies from disaster preparedness, operations planning, interpretation and field skills, international humanitarian landscape, building structures, first aid and mental health to national and international drills for better preparedness (e.g. participation in 2021 EU Modex Exercise).

After the earthquakes which devastated 10 Turkish provinces and impacted 13 million souls on 6 February 2023, ARÇ coordinators immediately assigned the field coordinators and initially issued an invitation to its members to get mobilized. ARÇ wanted to circulate an announcement only to a limited group of potential volunteers, however the announcement was soon posted on social media and the number of applications by potential volunteers skyrocketed to more than 10.000 in a matter of days. The applications were filtered and assessed for assignment. In the meantime, ARÇ coordinated with IRO (Istanbul Chamber of Tourist Guides) on the basis of a recent mutual understanding of collaboration. IRO then involved the tourist guides in its network and maintained coordination with ARÇ in the field. ARÇ also cooperated with TKTD (Conference Interpreters’ Association of Türkiye) which helped finding volunteer interpreters for field assignment. Çevbir also provided support. Moreover, volunteers from the stricken provinces who offered assistance were utilized. As a result, this coordination umbrella brought together parties in need of interpretation assistance and volunteer interpreters. Overall, approximately 250 interpreters were deployed to the impacted area within two weeks to assist more than 100 foreign Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams, relief organizations and field hospitals from more than 70 countries, supporting logistics operations whenever possible.

ARÇ concluded its voluntary mission as of 19 February 2023 as international SAR teams completed their activities and returned to their countries. However, our contact and exchange of information continues with our volunteers who extended their stay beyond the mission of ARÇ and relevant organizations.

ARÇ takes pride in its role in creating synergies between volunteers, local authorities and international teams for saving lives and offering relief to bring some semblance of normalcy to the lives of victims. The candid support of the local authorities, valuable efforts of sister NGOs, volunteers with big hearts and international teams dedicated to humanitarian relief had a major role in our success. A detailed retrospective brief on our operations will be shared with colleagues and respective organizations and institutions in near future.

As these disasters will sadly remain a reality, ARÇ will review and evaluate the current experience and maintain its efforts for even stronger organizational presence in the future.

Contact: [email protected]