Operation Blessing Helps Turkish Quake Survivors Rebuild Their Lives: 'They Gave Me Hope'
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It's been 5 months since the deadly earthquake struck Turkey killing 51,000 people, leaving behind widespread devastation, and displacing millions who lost their homes and livelihoods.
Operation Blessing teams from around the world were the first to respond in February to provide relief to the victims. Today OB is still there, helping survivors rebuild their lives.
Ahlem Arpaci recalls how terrified she was as big rocks fell on her house during the powerful earthquake. She said she quickly grabbed her children and ran out of the house before it collapsed. But her mother-in-law was trapped inside and suffered a harsh blow to her head.
"I was terrified to see my mother-in-law's face covered with blood. She was not responding and I thought we lost her. It was a scary day," Arpaci said.
Leila, her mother-in-law needed 17 stitches on her head and spent 17 days in a coma. Ahlem is thankful their family survived, but the hardship continued as they were forced to live with 30 other survivors in a greenhouse.
She said, "We lost everything and are starting from scratch. We had a good house and we were happy. Then suddenly you wake up and everything is gone."
Another survivor, Hakan, also lost everything including his coffee shop.
He said, "I've lived here for 40 years. It's been traumatic for me to see my friends' lives destroyed and so many lives were lost. There's so much sadness here but I don't want to leave this city. I want to see this city rebuilt, but I don't have much hope."
Hope is what Operation Blessing brings to earthquake survivors during this time of rebuilding in Turkey. OB is providing micro-enterprise grants to help people like Hakan overcome their losses and begin taking care of themselves.
According to Operation Blessing International Disaster Relief Director, Diego Traverso, people living in the hard-hit areas still need food and water. But he adds, "What they really need right now is to generate some source of income to bring them some dignity. They would like to earn money to sustain their families."
Operation Blessing built a coffee shop for Hakan. It may not be as big as what he had before, but it came complete with appliances and supplies that got him back in business.
Hakan is so grateful to OB. "They gave me hope. It really touched me that someone from another part of the world who doesn't even know me comes all the way here to help," Hakan said.
Operation Blessing also installed water filter systems in tent cities to help supply clean water during the hot summer.
Ministry teams also continue to provide food and tents for survivors. Ahlem was overwhelmed with the private space they now have, complete with a cabinet, dining table, a carpet, and a bed.
She said Operation Blessing has made their life more comfortable and they no longer have to sleep on the floor.
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