Weixin an Important Tool in Helping the Rescue Effort in Turkey


A young woman from Guizhou, China, is the backbone of a vital communications network that enables Chinese rescuers to help victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey without warning on Feb. 6.

Coco Guo, 31, a foreign language trainer, runs a Weixin group chat that connects more than 100 multilingual team members who were willing to drop what they were doing and travel to disaster areas. They hope to join thousands of volunteers from every corner of the world who have come to help the Turkish people in their moment of greatest need.

There’s one problem facing the Chinese rescue teams: language. But these dedicated souls in Coco’s group chat were not about to let a language barrier stand in the way of the Chinese rescuers’ participation. With Coco’s help and the direct translation feature on Weixin, the volunteers were ready to spring into action.

Guo recruits volunteers to join the rescue efforts. (Image provided by Coco Guo)

It all started when a friend of Guo approached her on Weixin, Tencent’s popular social platform. The friend asked if Guo knew someone who could help with translations. She worked in language training and had contacts with international students and foreigners, so she jumped into action.

“It’s just human nature to care for and help others,” she said. “I see myself as a world ‘citizen.’ I used to study abroad and have traveled to many countries. Many of my friends and Weixin contacts are from different cultures and regions, and they are all eager to help others.”

She used Weixin to recruit volunteers who can speak Chinese, English and Turkish. The group started with just a handful of people but grew quickly. So far, over 40 volunteer translators have provided support to 15 rescue teams or aid groups.

They have provided crucial translation services for the rescue teams, helping them communicate with Turkish officials and locals, and guiding them through the streets and rubble of the earthquake zone.

   The volunteers from China and the rescue team. (Image provided by Coco Guo)

Guo has spent many hours managing the volunteers, matching them with rescue teams and keeping track of their movements. She coordinates the translation work, makes sure everyone is in the right place at the right time, and helps the rescue teams navigate the complex terrain of the disaster zone.

She has been working almost nonstop since the earthquake stuck Turkey. “I feel like I must stand by 24-7 because saving a minute might help save a life,” Guo said.

Guo lists out the volunteers and matches them with rescue teams. (Image provided by Coco Guo)

There are many volunteers like Guo. For example, Sisi from Istanbul is the main point of contact for Guo in Turkey. Sisi works with local organizations and disaster-relief groups to identify needs, take the Chinese rescue teams to the right location, and help with translations.

When a 23-member Qingdao Red Cross team left China for Istanbul, they first reached out to Guo for logistics and translation help. Guo shared the request using Weixin and it was immediately picked up by volunteers in Turkey. 

People from all walks of life have stepped forward to offer their time, resources and expertise to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts.  In Guo’s Weixin chat group, a 19-year-old Turkish girl took a five-hour bus trip to buy the rescue team local SIM cards so they can find and provide timely help to those in need.

The Turkish earthquake was a sudden disaster. In the face of such adversity, it is heartening to see people from different cultures and backgrounds come together to help those in need.