Turkey: Earthquake aid helps survivors through winter and beyond

Kaynasli, Turkey -- 'Thank you for this prayer, ' the mayor said to his lunch visitors after they had offered a table grace. 'It is much like the prayers I offer each day for healing and help for those who suffer. We give thanks for your presence here.' With him was a group from LWR, including Rev. John Beem, Bishop of the ELCA's East Central Wisconsin Synod, and Turkish Action by Churches Together, the LWR partner helping local people recover from last year's earthquakes.
Their host, a Muslim, is mayor of a city of suffering. Niney-seven percent of the buildings in Kaynasli, Turkey, were destroyed or damaged beyond repair November 2, 1999, when the second of two major earthquakes struck north central Turkey. Three hundred people died in Kaynasli and 545 were injured. Four factories, the biggest employers, crumbled. Survivors today are living in either tents or pre-fabricated homes, awaiting a beleagured government's plans for permanent reconstruction. Damage to housing and commercial properties in the wider region is estimated to be 90 percent.

Three months later, with international support, Turkey's small Christian community is helping meet immediate and long-term needs. In Kaynasli, Bishop Beem, his wife Carla, LWR President Kathryn Wolford and Asia Director Daniel Chelliah visited 84 sturdy, family-sized tents provided through TACT. Each tent costs approximately $750. Residents pass winter nights that drop to near freezing temperatures with heating units, clothing and basic necessities also provided by the LWR partner organization. The Turkish church consortium also plans to help rebuild Kaynasli's destroyed water system, at a cost of $75,000. Elsewhere in the earthquake zone, a Dutch church member of the ACT alliance is preparing to build 200 permanent homes with LWR support.

LWR assistance since the earthquakes totals $175,000, including a $50,000 grant used by Maryland-based Interchurch Medical Assistance to leverage a large shipment of medicinces for use in field hospitals and clinics in the earthquake-affected zone.