We are all in a heightened state of alert and concern over the devastating 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude quakes in Turkey and Syria (with aftershocks felt in Lebanon and beyond). The region is reeling. Over 33,000 people are dead, according to today’s report from the Associated Press. Relief efforts in Turkey have been criticized, with some suggesting Erdogan has sent aid to the wealthier communities, while neglecting the poor. Many disaster relief teams have flown into Turkey from countries as diverse as Greece and Sudan, but northern Syrians have been on their own, with no help from the central government in Damascus.
Sabine Choucair, the founder of the NGO Clown Me, has been working to help survivors in Turkey. She writes, “I am in Turkey now. And it’s heartbreaking, sad and hard. Very, very hard, on me, on my little family, on my friends and on every single person around us. It is extra hard on Syrians too who literally haven’t had a break since 2011. It is hard on Lebanese who every time they want to re-tell their experience during the earthquake they call it ‘the explosion.’”
Clown Me has been used laughter and healing arts in the region since 2008, both in Lebanon and abroad. The organization is calling for support now to help earthquake survivors with a Global Giving drive. They have a modest goal of just $5,000 and we encourage you to click the link and make a donation.
Istanbul-based writer Jennifer Hattam (see her latest piece here) is also focused on contributing to the rescue and relief efforts. She urges those concerned to consider donating to Akut, Turkey’s top volunteer search and rescue organization. There are several reliable civil society groups working on the ground to provide immediate relief and medium-to long-term recovery to survivors via UK-based Turkey Mozaik Foundation or US based Turkish Philanthropy Funds (100% of donations go to recovery efforts in both cases).
These humanitarian disasters have political ramifications that could, in the end, benefit people in the region: they could contribute to the end of the corrupt regimes of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Bashar al-Assad.