We all have cried for Turkey and Syria following the historically destructive earthquakes.
We felt the pain–the pain of watching so much devastation and suffering.
The question now becomes, what can we do about it?
Right after the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake, we formed a team to discuss ways we can help both short-term and long-term. We spoke to the CEOs of three known organizations; one based in Turkey, one based in the UK, and one based in the US. There was much enthusiasm during the discussion. However, we were left disappointed at the lack of follow-through from two of the organizations and the surprisingly high overhead cost from the other.
So, we decided to think of alternative ways to help. We raised funds with our Annual Global Walk just before Ramadan and generated over $40,000!
One of our team members, Deniz Mater, who is from Turkey, happened to be traveling to Istanbul to visit her family. We asked her to talk to organizations working on the ground to assess the humanitarian needs. Through her, we found out that there are over 100 orphans from the earthquake area who were brought to Bursa, which was about two-hour drive from Istanbul.
She then went to visit the orphanage and meet with the staff. Based on her input, we assessed that the need was for summer clothes as the ones the children received from donations were mainly winter clothes.
Early morning on May 11th, Dian Alyan (GiveLight founder) and two other volunteers drove from Istanbul to Bursa. The plan was to take 80 children shopping for their clothes and shoes. Each child was given a generous $125 gift certificate that allowed them to buy up to 10 pieces of clothing and shoes. It took our team about five hours to complete the task as some of the children could not decide what they wanted. After the shopping was done the kids left with big smiles and we wondered still, what more we could do for them?
The next day, Dian and another volunteer left at six in the morning to catch a flight to Gaziantep to visit the earthquake-affected areas. They were picked up by a generous family who had been supporting the earthquake victims since the tragedy occurred. They drove to the center of the earthquake, a city called Kahranamaras. Even three months later, the destruction was still visible and rubble was scattered everywhere. They proceeded to the office of the Red Cross to meet with their management team. They were to take Dian and the volunteer to one of the camps to visit some orphans
The camp had 6,000 people and a lot of children were in the playground areas. Our team met with about 14 orphans and their families.
It was heartbreaking to see how the victims lived in a small container where they eat, sleep, and cook. It wasn’t even summer, but we could feel the heat emanating from the walls. They were very appreciative of the visit and the sweets and drinks that we brought. For us, it felt like such a small gesture and yet we wondered, what more could we do for them?
A few of our team members from the Bay Area will be traveling this July to do follow-up work. We are anticipating the sponsorship of some psychologists to provide counseling to the children. We are also looking at partnering with an NGO to build a small sports facility where the kids can enjoy games such as soccer or basketball and utilize the power of sports to heal.
The road to recovery in Turkey is going to be a very long one. We hope that at some point in the future, we can build a GiveLight home and take some of the orphans in and raise them to be beautiful human beings.
If you’re interested in volunteering or supporting this project, please let us know. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you and God bless