Ken and Betty Frank,
As we write, around 600 persons are known to have died in the severe 7.2 earthquake of Oct. 23, 2011, in the region of Van, in the far east of Turkey. Approximately 8,000 structures have been destroyed or are unable to be used. Rescue operations have pretty much ceased, and recovery efforts are now underway, together with the usual outbursts of blame and anger as people try to understand why these deaths happened.
To meet the immediate needs of the earthquake survivors, people throughout the country are sending blankets, clothing, and other essentials. We have been impressed to see this unity of concern that has transcended animosities against ethnic Kurdish people, many of whom live in the Van region. Some Kurds are in armed rebellion against the Turkish state, resulting in their deaths, the deaths of innocent civilians, and the killing of Turkish soldiers and officials. Nevertheless, compassion for the sufferings of all the people of Van has been the predominant feeling throughout the country.
Through the support of the Week of Compassion program of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the One Great Hour of Sharing program of the United Church of Christ, we too have been able to send needed materials to the affected region. In this effort we have been guided by our Turkish partners who have expertise, knowledge, and personal contacts that make our donations effective. For instance, materials for personal hygiene are high on the requirements list, resulting in our shipment of disposable diapers.
The recovery phase now underway is establishing four psycho-social centers for young children in the cities of Van and nearby Ercis. The centers will help the children deal with their trauma and normalize their lives. To equip these centers we have sent boxloads of educational toys and materials, coloring books and crayons, play-dough, story books, and so on. These items will be used by psychologists and care-givers to organize the time and activities and emotional expressions of the child survivors.
We will keep you posted on further developments.
--Betty and Ken Frank