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By: Kate Holmberg

Edited By: Camryn Collier

Turkey has seen a powerful, unbelievable scale of destruction, but it has also had a strong level of hope for a restored future. Wine To Water was on the ground within the first week of the disaster. As we traveled the impact zone, I had never seen such levels of destruction. Everything as far as the eye could see was destroyed. It felt surreal - like something out of an apocalyptic movie. There was dust and smoke everywhere from the rubble and fires. Helicopters continually flew overhead transporting patients to hospitals. People were frantically running around searching for their loved ones or rescue teams for help. Excavators and other heavy machinery operated everywhere. I’ve never seen so many people in such a small area at once.

Other Emergency Response agents more experienced than I agreed; this was one of the largest disasters they had ever seen. Many compared it to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, saying that this earthquake and its devastation was even worse.

All over, you could hear the crunching and movement of materials as they searched for people. It was devastating, seeing the families waiting beside a pile of debris - remains of their home. They sat and watched as the excavators worked, removing ton by ton of materials hoping to find their loved ones. By the time we had gotten there, many knew their loved ones were dead. But, they waited in sorrow for the bodies, hoping for a proper burial.

They sat, chai in hand and tears on their cheeks, waiting patiently as bucket by bucket of rubble was removed.

After the initial recovery period, the level of aid delivered was amazing. Tons of relief materials were distributed even to the most far-reaching villages within the first couple of weeks. For us, at Wine To Water, we would assess small villages with just a handful of homes. Often, these people already had access to hygiene supplies and water. All over, refugee communities were set up with amazing resources, awesome community water systems, food programming, and more.

The sad, stark contrast was the communities that were not served. We often ran into many Syrian refugees who had not received anything.

Whether it was a Syrian refugee or a Turkish family, we were always greeted with kindness and amazing hospitality. These people literally had nothing left, but they always insisted on giving us a seat and a cup of chai. It’s indescribable, but in a few words, they are a beautiful people. Their kindness and welcoming gestures were always so special. Even if it was the 10th time we’d seen them that day, we were always treated like a new friend.

Our second trip, which is detailed later, happened months later. At the time, it was crazy how much changed from just my first trip there. Already, nearly all the buildings that were destroyed were cleared. There was barely any rubble left. While traveling amongst different cities, there were massive areas of flat land. It's uncanny, knowing that a few short months ago these barren lands were full of buildings. But, those buildings had all been destroyed, and all that is left behind are large, haunting, open spaces. Outside of cities, you would see the piles of rubble. It was like mountains growing, seeing the piles become so wide and tall. The excavators moving the materials looked like tiny ants on top of the huge hills.

Despite the passing of time and the initial effective response, there were still massive needs. As time passes, not everything gets better - in fact, new issues arise. For example, now that initial hygiene kits have run out, now people need more sustainable, long-term resources. NGOs are supplying those materials, but anything super long-term that’s available in market is expensive and inaccessible. Another issue is water. Generally, it seems that people have access, but the water is not clean. During the Summer, record highs are above 100 degrees Fahrenheit; water is needed, absolutely. In a disaster zone, new situations occur as things change, just like a ripple in the water. Unfortunately, Turkey and Syria are looking towards the long haul. They won’t go back to normal for quite a while, and managing the ripples is essential so they don’t become waves."


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