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1999 NCC News Archives

Ecumenical Community Equips 2,500 with Tents, Furnishings,
Helping to East Miseries in Turkey

Church World Service "Ups" Its Turkey Response Goal to $1 Million,
Receives Thank You Letters from Turkish Citizens, Eye-Witness Reports

September 3, 1999, NEW YORK CITY - As Turkey's people continue to grieve the loss of life from the August 17 earthquake and aftershocks and suffer from the loss of homes and livelihoods, emergency assistance from the ecumenical community is helping to sustain and encourage survivors.

Church World Service is among partners in a global ecumenical program to shelter 500 families comprising about 2,500 individuals from two hard-hit areas, the municipality of Izmit and villages above Adaparazi - a program that may double or triple in size as needs in other affected locations are determined.

People currently are living in makeshift shelters of canvas and plastic sheeting that have proved thoroughly inadequate for the heavy rains this past week. Lack of proper ground sheets and mattresses has made the floors slushy and damp.

A broad array of churches in Turkey have joined forces to provide winterized tents fitted with heating stoves, along with water and sanitation facilities, bedding and other furnishings, cooking equipment and utensils, hygiene kits and educational assistance for the children. Supporting the program are Turkey's churches and $1,039,800 from the Action by Churches Together (ACT) worldwide emergency response network of churches and related agencies, including Church World Service.

The tents - to be erected either in communal settings or on individual family property - are expected to be ready for occupation over the next week or so. Two hundred tents are to arrive from Norway this weekend, and all other materials are to be procured locally.

Mick McCain, a United Church of Christ missioner to Turkey who is helping coordinate the program, visited Golcuk and Adaparazi mid-week, and reported that they "are so terribly destroyed that it's hard to maintain a steely, dispassionate attitude. We're weeping inside all the time."

An Iranian geophysicist who accompanied him "was appalled at the way the earthquake had scattered buildings in every direction, not in only one," Mr. McCain reported. "Here the accordion collapse of six story buildings that now seem to be four story buildings is very evident. And it must all be completely cleared away - nothing can be repaired."

Knowing that the global community cares has provided some comfort. Church World Service has received several "thank you" letters from Turkish Americans and Turkish citizens for its post-earthquake response efforts.

Among them is an August 30 e-mail from Dr. Gunay Apak, Turkish citizen, who wrote, "We are suffering a lot, but seeing and feeling the kindness of - all nations around the globe in different religions and culture is relieving our deep sorrow."

The letter, to the Rev. Dr. Rodney Page, CWS Executive Director, expressed special thanks for Malden Mills' donation of 2,000 Polartec blankets through Church World Service, and for CWS's overall response. "We are especially grateful for small children for donating their pocket money to their unknown friends in Turkey," Dr. Apak wrote.

Church World Service, the humanitarian response ministry of the (U.S.) National Council of Churches, is increasing its Turkey Earthquake Response goal to $1 million as specific needs become clearer - and as Americans respond generously with donations for purchase of emergency supplies.

CWS and its member denominations already have sent $250,000 in support of ACT's initial program and will send another $75,000 next week. Church World Service previously sent another $50,000 for the purchase of tents and blankets.

CWS is supporting ecumenical efforts focusing on recovery and rehabilitation, particularly among those who are most vulnerable after such catastrophic events - women and children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Longer-term response will include provision of material goods and building homes.

Contributions may be sent to Church World Service, Attn. Turkey Response, 28606 Phillips Street, PO Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Telephone: 1-800-297-1516, ext 222. For more information and updates and/or to make an on-line contribution, go to http://www.churchworldservice.org.

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