We Are Surviving on Hope: Supporting Quake-stricken Communities in TürkiyePublished: Feb 23, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
How do you start a new life after losing everything in one night? This is the question thousands are grappling with after losing their homes, friends, and loved ones to the deadly earthquake. Supported by donations from PIN, İnsana Değer Derneği (IDD) is delivering aid to some of the hardest-hit areas in Türkiye.
Picture an apartment building tilted on its side, the foundation sticking upward like an iceberg, or a second-floor balcony sitting at street level, the storey below crushed into a pancake, or a house with one side ripped away, leaving the living room exposed; pink sofas still in place, lace curtains swaying in the wind.
These are the strange scenes in the Turkish towns of Pazarcık and Gölbaşı. Some of the residents wander silently in a shell-shocked daze, others carry electric heaters and bags of clothes to the tents where they live, some ask when the next delivery of aid will arrive. No one can quite believe what happened.
Pazarcık and Gölbaşı - which lies a few kilometres west - were hit hard by the earthquake. Hundreds of buildings have collapsed completely. Others are so structurally damaged that they have to be demolished. Many of the surviving residents of Pazarcık (nobody knows exactly how many have died) occupy a camp of 500 tents in a park on the outskirts of town. Old and young, rich and poor, all are grouped together.
Living in the tent
At this camp, we met Feride*. Originally from Sweden - a fact revealed by her sharp blue eyes - she met her husband in Türkiye and settled here some time ago.
They started a family and had a home, friends, and neighbours. They spent decades building a life together that was brought to ruin by an earthquake that lasted just 81 seconds.
“Now we’re here in this tent. No word, nothing. No money, nothing. We’re waiting for life to change,” she said.
The question on Feride’s mind seems to be - what now? How do you rebuild a life after it disappears in an instant? When Feride went to sleep on the evening of the 5th of February, she didn’t know that by the time the sun came up, her life would be changed forever. It’s difficult for the people of Pazarcık and Gölbaşı to come to terms with this new reality. The atmosphere is tense, almost angry - not at any group or person, but at the sheer scale of their loss.
“I can hear people arguing in the camp, morning and night. It’s really hard here because sometimes there are two families in one tent. People are very tense,” Feride said. “It’s hard, but what can we do?”
No one in the camp knows how long they will have to stay there. It could be weeks, months, or more. The stream of aid at least helps ease their suffering. Fresh bread arrived a few days ago, and IDD (İnsana Değer Derneği) distributed hygiene kits that had been donated to the organisation by PIN. Electricity has been installed, and - Feride hopes - running water will soon follow.
These are small steps, and it’s a long road to rebuilding a life that took years to create. But Feride, and many others in this camp, are finding ways to cope with their loss while waiting for life to change.
“You need to keep going and moving. We collect firewood, stand in line for food, or gather what we can, so it helps relax us. If you don’t keep going, and you just sit and think, it’s hard,” she said.
“We lost everything. We’ve lost it all. But it doesn’t matter - I have my husband and the children, so it’s okay. Nothing else matters. We are going to survive - we are surviving on hope,” Feride added.
“It’s not going to be like this all the time,” her husband said. “One day things will be better. We just need to wait a little longer.”
PIN and IDD’s Response
In Turkey, enabled by donations from People in Need, IDD has delivered hundreds of hygiene kits, socks, heaters, solar lamps, and water boilers to the municipalities of Adiyaman and Kahramanmaras for distribution to those affected by the earthquake.
IDD, with support from PIN, will continue to provide aid for quake-stricken areas in southern Türkiye.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality.