Derya says, “I have been working for Turk Kültur Vakfi – AFS Turkey more than 15 years, I am currently the National Director for AFS Turkey. I graduated from University of Portsmouth on June 1998 that my BA was based on Economics. I am married and have a 7 yrs old son.”
How do you feel that AFS as an organization can contribute to fostering intercultural competence around the world especially during these times of uncertainty?
Turk Kultur Vakfi (Turkish Cultural Foundation) – TKV, runs AFS Intercultural Programs in Turkey since 1952. Besides, TKV is organizing many other exchange programs as well as many other educational programs and activities in the country. You may visit all of them in www.turkkulturvakfi.org.tr.
By the helping of all these, TKV aims to reach 5,000 people in each year to create awareness of what the organization does for the country especially in these times of uncertainty as well in Turkey and in globe. We always get in touch people to act like global or active citizens in our society. Of course, it is not easy to make it but we all believe in AFS mission, and we never stop or cancel any of our programs and any of our activities in Turkey. We give importance of the visibility and the advocacy in our business.
Education has always been the key to expanding the vision of people. How do you feel intercultural learning incorporated within the educational framework to help in broadening the overall learning process for individuals?
We are implementing AFS Learning Link Program into our volunteers’ life cycle. Our volunteers then become the voice of mission in our society.
Another perspective for the education in our body is; we give more emphasis on the teachers and working closely with the schools. Our staff is visiting the schools and the teachers very often in each year. We design a different module in the link program that twice a year, we organize the link program for only the adults that the teachers are always welcomed in it. Besides, we have been collaborated with many foundations, companies and associations within in the country and also in abroad to work with them in terms of providing our education competencies with them.
What initiatives has AFS Turkey undertaken to shape the international education worldwide?
TKV has many education initiatives in Europe. One of them is very well known in our nework is Europen Fedaration for Intercultural Learning (EFIL). TKV is EFIL’s one founder partner in Europe. We have close relation with EFIL and our vice Board Chair is in EFIL’d Board. Our trainers are actively working as a trainer in European Pool of Trainers’ (EPOT). Our volunteers are going to participate in EFIL trainings regularly.
AFS in Turkey has two separate bodies working in conjunction with each other.
TKV is the foundation that is the official partner AFS organisation in Turkey. It handles the international, bureaucratic and financial aspects of the program, with its professional office staff run by the National Director, and the board of the foundation. AFS Volunteers’ Association (VA), being an organization run by volunteers for volunteers, it provides all the volunteer work necessary for the AFS Programs to run smoothly in the country. This open structure enables us to have more than 500 members and quite an active democratic environment. The rules and procedures of work are set by a protocol between the national partner organisation – TKV and VA. Should there be any issues arising from volunteers side, the volunteers can discuss it as a united organisation rather than individually. Similarly, should there be any problems arising from volunteers themselves, TKV raises the issue with the VA and let the volunteers solve the problem amongst themselves.
a) Any suggestions as to how the intercultural learning can be given due importance/ awareness in lesser explored areas so as to reach out for more openness and awareness in obtaining intercultural learning.
b) Schools are important partners in growth of AFS programs. How has AFS involved schools in country to make them strong partners? What are some kinds of activities that AFS has been doing to improve school relationships, and can be an example for others in the field of Global Education?
c) Volunteers are the pillars when it comes to the functioning of AFS. What more initiatives be brought forth to garner motivation amongst the volunteers?
Here’s my answer to above three questions: Since 2015, TKV organizes a unique domestic exchange program for 14-16 years old high school students in Turkey. Here are the details about the program in below:
‘’Turkiye Kardesleri’’ Domestic Exchange Program in Turkey
The main objective of this project is to develop a cross-cultural understanding between different cultures in Turkey while underlining the significance of multiculturalism in a democratic society, and nurture participants as well as local partners to develop skills and knowledge in the field of intercultural interaction to operate more effectively in their communities. The program aimed at recognition of local diversity at early ages, preparation of students for longer mobility programs and increasing dialogue among the diverse youth in Turkey. With this project, the participants;
- have a chance to get acquainted with each other’s cultures, traditions, and shared values as well as differences between them, as the basis for mutual understanding and solidarity as they get equipped with competences (skills, knowledge and attitude) of intercultural interaction,
- constructively and proactively engage in intercultural dialogue,
- gain an increased awareness and acceptance of each other’s cultures
- live and learn with participants taking part from different backgrounds, cultures, with diverse mentalities
- get a non-formal learning opportunity with an international perspective to address topics related to multiculturalism, volunteerism and personal development.
The project is designed by Türk Kültür Vakfı and AFS Volunteers’ Association (VA) that it is funded through fundraising campaign, donations and sponsorships. The program takes place for 9 days is offered as a full scholarship for participating students and teachers. Türkiye Kardeşleri Domestic Exchange Program consists of three major parts: educational component, community service and artistic/cultural first-hand experience with the motto of “Live Together, Produce Together, Live Together”
Türkiye Kardeşleri Domestic Exchange Program was implemented in June 2015 (21 participants) in 3 schools, June 2016 (60 participants and 15 teachers) in 6 schools and the 3rd edition was taking place in September 2017 (163 partcipants and 30 teachers) in 10 schools in 9 cities.
How has the AFS experienced/helped you?
My background is based on Economic and Finance. After graduation from my university, I worked as a specialist at a well-known equity company for 4 years in the finance department. Then, I decided to be in NGO and found myself in AFS. This has happened 15 years ago and I started to be a sending coordinator of this organization. And today, I have become the National Director and I strongly say that AFS has really changed my life a lot.
All my prejudices went away and I opened new doors to myself to know and to understand more people in the world. For me, AFS is a non –finished or non-completed journey which means that each single day, I am learning a new thing from this experience. In other words, empathy becomes a significant key role in my AFS journey. As a last but not the least, I may add that I believe in mission and always honored to work for it in this network.