Long After Earthquake, UMCOR Work Continues in Turkey
The Marmara region of Turkey was rocked by a devastating earthquake on Aug. 17 of that year. Nearly three months later, on Nov. 12, another earthquake struck further to the east, centered on Duzce. The result: more than 17,000 known deaths and 29,000 injuries, with 800,000 left homeless. In addition, some 300,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.
United Methodists responded to the twin disasters by eventually donating $2.2 million to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for its work in Turkey. Another $2.2 million was channeled to UMCOR through an appeal of Action by Churches Together (ACT) and individual donors such as the Episcopal Relief and Development Agency and TEAR Fund, Netherlands.
By the end of 2001, all those monies will have been invested in reconstruction and rehabilitation programs, according to Lianna Vanoyan, senior program officer, Balkans region, for the UMCOR NGO (nongovernmental organization) office in Washington. "We anticipate being operational to the end of 2002," she added.
Although the India earthquake involved more loss of life and damage to physical structures, Vanoyan said, "the economic damage in Turkey, I think, is parallel to the economic damage in India." Forty percent of Turkey's industrial base, she added, was in the earthquake region.
The first phase of UMCOR's work in Turkey focused on meeting the immediate need of people affected by the two earthquakes. The agency now is in the second phase of its response, centering on community, economic and social development.
UMCOR is the only implementing partner of ACT, a coalition of about 200 Protestant and Orthodox churches and relief agencies, working in Turkey. Without a church base in the predominantly Muslim country, the agency has channeled its efforts through local NGOs. "We don't implement directly, we implement through them," Vanoyan explained. "Our goal there is to build as much local capacity as we can."
The UMCOR office in Istanbul serves as the administrative and programmatic base for its Turkey operations. A field office is expected to open soon in Duzce.
Although more than 130 tent cities were set up for the homeless in the aftermath of the earthquakes, they did not provide adequate housing. One of the first-phase projects was the construction of 192 prefabricated housing units in Duzce, in conjunction with a local partner, Human Settlements Association. The work was completed in August.
In the small coastal town of Karamursel, about 30 kilometers west of Golcuk, epicenter of the August earthquake, is a primary boarding school for hearing-impaired children. Because of structural damage, it was forced to close for the entire 1999-2000 school year, despite being the only such institution in the region. UMCOR worked with the International Blue Crescent to reconstruct the school, completing the major work by last September. Classes resumed on Oct. 9.
In both the Golcuk and Duzce areas, the Women's Solidarity Foundation and Human Resource Development Foundation partnered with UMCOR in a social development program. The goal is to help participants resolve current social and emotional problems, gain vocational skills and restore a sense of normalcy and control to their lives. As of December, 187 women, 16 men, 576 youth and 73 children had benefited from the program.
Emergency winterization of 200 poorly designed prefab houses in Golcuk was initiated and completed in December.
"UMCOR has developed strong working relationships with the local governments and municipalities in the earthquake zone," stated the agency's last quarter report of 2000 submitted to ACT. The reported noted that coordination efforts with local officials "are particularly important given the government's plan to relocate thousands of families from their temporary residences to newly-constructed permanent housing."
UMCOR currently is involved in a repair and construction project that will fix 50 homes and provide permanent new housing for 180 families.
Using a self-help model, the project focuses on the organization of community action teams that receive technical training and assistance, allowing people to build or repair their own homes. UMCOR and community representatives also will establish a housing cooperative to help residents be involved in neighborhood improvements, such as landscaping and extension of housing unit size.
Now that work has been completed on the physical facility at Karamursel boarding school, social programs, including training in disaster preparedness, training in modern educational methods for hearing-impaired children and the establishment of a visiting volunteers educational enrichment program.
The enrichment program also brings volunteers from around the world to spend one to two weeks at the school. The first of those volunteers visited just before Christmas. "The team consisted of two deaf men from California and the students' response to the visit was quite extraordinary," the quarterly report stated. "As expected, many of the children had never met deaf adults before and were quite taken with the notion."
In both Golcuk and Duzce, UMCOR is working to stimulate the local economy through small, low-interest loans and business skills training, particularly for women and those who are socially vulnerable. Forty community outreach volunteers in those areas also will facilitate meetings and workshops to foster a sense of teamwork, social consciousness, self-initiative and self-empowerment in targeted communities.
"Women involved in the candle-making and home-textiles workshops are incredibly excited about the success of their workshops and the potential to transition these workshops into sustainable business operations," the quarterly report said. "Income generated during the last quarter of the year was distributed amongst workshop members. The generation of funds not only contributed to supplementing family income, but for many women this was the first time in their lives they had ever earned money."
Donations are still accepted for UMCOR's work in Turkey. Checks to UMCOR Advance #675205-6, earmarked for "Turkey Earthquake," can be dropped in church collection plates or mailed to 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.
Date posted: Feb 09, 2001