Ozlem Okutkan

Hero Story

As an immigrant, AmeriCorps member Ozlem Okutkan said helping others gives her a sense of community.

“If you want to feel belonging, the only way is to serve,” said Ozlem Okutkan.

Okutkan was born in Turkey and has lived in the United States for the past ten years. She received her bachelor’s degree in international politics and has worked at several global logistics companies as an export-import specialist. However, it is serving that Okutkan believes helps her to feel at home.

When the pandemic hit Detroit—Okutkan’s hometown community—she immediately saw the impact it was having on the city. “The city was like a ghost town,” Okutkan said. “That’s why I started to search for volunteer activities to support the Detroit community.”

This is how Okutkan discovered the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Program in Detroit where she is a part of the Water Filtration Project in Highland Park. There is a lack of proper water filtration in the area, which can become critically dangerous as its residents will be exposed to high amounts of lead. To combat this, Okutkan goes door-to-door to bring information on how to access proper water filtration to the neighborhood. Okutkan has loved the opportunity to grow closer to her community.

“While you serve, you realize the real problems of the society and these little steps bring you feelings of responsibility, and you become involved in the community,” Okutkan said.

Volunteering is a large part of Ozlem’s life, and it will not stop once her AmeriCorps term is up. After her term, Ozlem hopes to become involved in projects focusing on Turkish-American relations and the immigration process, all while continuing to be an active volunteer for AmeriCorps.