Youth work during a pandemic – Volunteers’ support and repatriation

The Covid-19 pandemic took the world by surprise and youth organisations had to adapt, all over the world. How are European youth organisations coping with this crisis? Here are the stories of some of our member organisations, our way of documenting this common page in our History, and mapping samples of the impact this pandemic had on youth work throughout Europe!


Youth for Understanding Turkey (Anlayis Icin Genclik Dernegi) is the Turkish office of Youth For Understanding (YFU), an international organisation of intercultural exchange. YFU’s mission is to welcome exchange students from all over the world for short-term (Summer) and long-term (Semester and Year) exchange programs.

Thanks to Eylem Certel for having shared with us how YFU Turkey adapted to the crisis!

Here are some of the measures ordered by the Turkish government to stop the spreading of the virus: the over-65s and under-20s were asked to stay home, most of the public places were shut down, and major cities were sealed off between March 16th and June 1st 2020. Most of the work places shut down to have their staff working from home or temporarily stopping their work. As of June 1st, the government issued lifted some of the bans, and most offices opened again. However, Turkey is still one of the countries with travel bans within Europe, impacting greatly the activity of YFU.

Adapting to the crisis

YFU had to close their office on March 16th. Since then their staff worked from home. All of their face-to-face activities got cancelled and they tried to convert most of them into online activities (online orientation counseling, online interviews…). The support of YFU Turkey volunteers was crucial and a lot of them came naturally to give their hand to the organisation. They have been and are actively taking part in all the online activities.

Supporting exchange students

YFU Turkey manages exchange students all over the world, all year long. So of course, the Covid-19 crisis had a huge impact on their work. The main urgence of YFU Turkey during these times was to manage to get all of their students who were abroad back to their home countries. After a lot of work, the organisation successfully brought back all of their students.

Youth supporting youth online

YFU Turkey’s volunteers initiated an online activity over the online platform Discord aiming at keeping in touch with exchange students that had to stop their programs and come back to Turkey immediately. For most of these exchange students, the situation was traumatic, so volunteers continuously supported them over discord from the end of March to the end of May.

Orienting youth by distance

Post-Exchange Orientation, one of YFU’s main orientations for young people completing their program, has been digitalised by a group of YFU volunteers and implemented through June and July. Right now, the Pre-Departure Orientation is also being digitalised by a group of YFU volunteers and will be implemented online at the end of August for young people that are prepared to leave in Fall 2020.


Having our volunteers being so active and supporting us in the best way possible, was a great take our for us.
Eylem Certel
Director of YFU Turkey