When Natural Disasters Strike…

On February 6, a 7.8 earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, quickly followed by a 7.7 earthquake later that same day. In the following days, countless volunteers and workers from around Türkiye and the world would learn of the devastation and try to reach out to help. The death toll currently sits at over 56,000, but will likely continue to increase. Our staff psychologist describes these first weeks as the “heroic” stage of disaster response, a time when many people pushing themselves to their utter limits to try and rescue whoever they can. But as we all recognize, we can’t live in these states forever and relief workers often find themselves feeling disillusioned and hopeless in the months following days. 

Wanting to provide the best information we could to the workers trying to provide care to those caught in the disaster, we quickly put together a presentation describing trauma, the basics of psychological first aid, self-care, and ways we can care for children. We put together a more clinical webinar and then, with the great assistance from a local translator, offered a presentation to the local church the following evening. In that latter presentation, we asked that any audience members providing either direct or indirect care to the earthquake victims to stand. In an almost full room, I did not see one seat filled. 

The questions extended after the seminar itself as people came up to ask heart-wrenching questions as to how they can best care for friends and loved ones who are caught up in disaster. One was interested in learning how they could better provide support for young children who have witnessed unimaginable destruction. Another asked how they could help their family members who seemed glued to the televisions in the wake of this international tragedy. For another, they wanted to know more about where they themselves could hook into the relief efforts without just getting in the way.

Among the many recommendations and resources we offered to the people, we encouraged them to look carefully before leaping into action. Some people they will work with need extra social support (e.g. children separated from their family or caregivers) while others may require advanced medical or psychological care. We need to respect our role and work to coordinate with the many other hands and feet engaged in care. We will not be the answer to everyone’s question. We suggested that this humility will also help us listen with kindness, respecting people’s privacy and dignity during an event that seems to leave little room for either. Without judgment, without diminishing their experience, we offer our eyes, our ears, and our hearts. 


We’ve been listening, trying to learn and looking for the best ways to serve after the earthquake. After conversations with locals who shared reputable sources and insights, churches and expats working in the disaster areas, here are a few reliable ways to contribute from a distance. 


You can give to workers who are partnering with locals and using local materials to build temporary wood (insulated) homes for displaced people who wish to stay in their cities (see attached pictures for the start of the project). They are currently building and needing funds. If you have Instagram you can follow @kurtpmiller and his earthquake videos (and see the images below for a sample.) Each home costs about $1,000. You can give directly here: https://dwellglobal.kindful.com/


Ilk Umut (Partnering with Samaritan’s Purse) that the local Turkish church is partnering with. https://ilkumutdernegi.org/en/

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