Earthquake Relief Reaches the Town of Nurdağı in Turkey’s Gaziantep Province

National Headquarters  |  March 15, 2023
Tzu Chi Turkey volunteers distributing
Tzu Chi volunteers distribute cash cards to survivors. Photo/Nadya Chou

Translated by Ariel Chan
by Adriana DiBenedetto

From March 5–7, 2023, Tzu Chi visited the town of Nurdağı in Turkey’s Gaziantep Province for a three-day disaster relief distribution. The magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 Kahramanmaraş Earthquake Sequence struck near Nurdağı, Turkey, on February 6, and led to a tragic loss of life, many injuries, and the destruction of beloved homes. 

It is estimated that a total of 8,000 disaster survivors will be helped by the relief distributions held over three days. 

“This is Nurdağıi Township. The town is almost completely destroyed, the buildings are almost collapsed, and the park next to it has been turned into a tent area,” Jiaxin Li, a Tzu Chi Disaster Survey Team reporter, shared. So much destruction all around made the distribution a challenge, but volunteers were determined to help. 

A Heartwarming First Meeting

In the beginning, many disaster survivors were both amazed and uncertain of Tzu Chi’s offers for relief, worried it may be too good to be true. But after volunteers introduced the foundation’s work with sincerity and patience, their concerns gradually subsided. 

 “I received a text message three days ago. I thought it was a scam,” An earthquake survivor, Husut, shared. “I wanted to bring the whole family to come and see it.”

The news of the distribution spread widely, and in the afternoon, the survivors who came to collect the cash cards became more energized. Another survivor, Hussein, came by bicycle. He told volunteers that the disaster left him with nothing else: “I rode for half an hour, my house was destroyed, and the bicycle was the only thing I salvaged.”

Upon learning that volunteers had come from across the Atlantic, many event attendees felt both shock and warmth. The disaster survivors were grateful for Tzu Chi’s genuine care and desire to help, but the catastrophe had introduced a new problem. 

“Thank you for your love, but because the BİM (a large local supermarket chain) has collapsed, we are still wondering where to use it,” shared a survivor named Mu Si.  

With this, Tzu Chi volunteers actively helped survivors find solutions. Shimin Xiong, deputy executive director of the Tzu Chi Charity Foundation, said, “Through our investigation, we learned that the BİM store has temporarily restructured into a mobile store, and its mobile vans will allow those affected to come and shop.”

Tzu Chi volunteers having briefing for the distribution
Tzu Chi volunteers in Turkey discuss the distribution details beforehand. Photo/Nadya Chou
Tzu Chi volunteers group photo
Some of the participating volunteers take a group photo. Photo/Nadya Chou

The Second Distribution Gets Underway

During the second distribution day, Tzu Chi volunteers felt they’d become more proficient through their experiences on the first day. Many survivors burst into tears when they saw Tzu Chi volunteers who came from afar. Volunteers listened attentively as they recounted their experiences, shared hugs, and gave them strength and encouragement. 

Due to the larger number of distributions, volunteers used time slots to promote prompt relief. Shimin Xiong, deputy executive director of the Tzu Chi Charity Foundation, shared, “[Today’s distribution] served about 2,400 people, and each time slot accommodates 200 people, hoping to stagger the wait time.” 

Although the temperature was only 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit), the enthusiasm from more than 2,000 families in Nurdağıi remained undiminished, and the hearts of Tzu Chi volunteers filled with warmth.  

Nourish the Heart With Love

Feili’s family grieved the loss of loved ones, sharing, “I lost my daughter in the earthquake. As for my son, his hand was crushed by the earthquake.” In addition to the physical pain, her son, Ali, told volunteers of other challenges: “It is difficult for me to walk now,” he said, “and I can’t do anything. I feel useless.” 

A survivor named Amira also lost her beloved, and Fatima, a Syrian volunteer, placed a gentle hand on Amira’s shoulder, as if best friends were supporting one another. Amira ultimately worked through her tears, smiled sadly, and said, “Now we have to help each other. We are good friends now.”

Many survivors’ homes were destroyed, and temporary shelters have been set up. However, the chilly draft blew through the tented area, and there was no running water or electricity, and children caught colds. Despite the challenges and grief, some survivors remained optimistic for the future. “Sometimes I still feel afraid when I think of earthquakes. This is a test given to us by Allah,” a survivor named Hana told volunteers. 

As thin as a cash card may be, it contains the boundless care of Tzu Chi volunteers and the selfless gifts of people across the globe. Empower us with the resources to do more.

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