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Charity project: clothes donation to Antalya district

by Anita Robert (UNHCR), for the Charity Group

The idea to provide some assistance to the families hurt by the summer 2020 fires on the south coast of Turkey started, as it is often the case, with an informal discussion over a morning coffee. Celestina, wife of the Paraguay Ambassador, was telling the story of her husband, who had been in the devastated area during summer as a fireman volunteer.

The small charity group decided to do something to help the people there.

Getting winter clothes from SHOM members was the first challenge. But it turned out to be a big success. 16 boxes of warm clothes and blankets were delivered within 10 days. Our request was not very precise, but you all figured out what the families would need, thus we received not only jackets, sweaters, but also socks, hats and shoes. Most of them were in excellent condition, even new, and we wish to specially thank you for that. Because it is our image which is engaged in this process, if the quality of our donation is not good, we lose credibility. We made a very selective choice of what we gave, so that our donation fits best to the families in need.

The second challenge was to find the right community in need of our donation. We discovered in this process that many villages had received donations, mainly from Turks, since the summer. Here, we were lucky to have the support of the Honorary consul of Sri Lanka in Antalya, Mr. Ali Kamburoglu, thanks to Husna, spouse of the Sri Lanka Ambassador. After doing some research, Mr. Ali (as we called him) recommended that we go to the district of Gündoğmuş, in the mountains 2 hours north of Antalya. This is a remote region, away from any touristic activities.

The last challenge was to get there with the boxes! Here Celestina saved us by convincing the Honorary consul of Paraguay in Istanbul to lend us a bus and a driver from his touristic company Honest travel.

On D-Day, 2nd December, Celestina, Husna and Anita gathered in a most comfortable car on courtesy of the Sri Lanka embassy. The driver took us in 4 hours to Gündoğmuş. We were welcomed by the young district governor, Mr. Hamza Özbilgi. Over a cup of tea, he explained that the fires were a sabotage. 2 adults and 2 young minors have confessed their crime. They are now waiting for their trial. Mr. Özbilgi went on to explain that his district covers 62 villages. 1382 houses were damaged last summer, affecting an estimated 90.000 people. By the time our exchange was over, the bus arrived with the boxes. We couldn’t have a better planning!

We first visited a memorial to the persons who died in precedent fires back in 2004. The community had just started replanting trees when last summer disaster took place. We then went to a school where about 30 children were already waiting for us. The smiles and laughs of these children and their mothers made us very happy. The team of Mr. Aykut Yarar, Director of the District Governor's Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation, was very efficient in helping us manage the distribution. All this went pretty quickly, and we were in the car again to drive to the end of a valley to meet other persons in need. After a long drive on mountain roads (where we could appreciate the excellent driving skills of Honest travel driver!) we stopped in front of 3 containers. Here were 3 families living whose houses had been burnt by the fires.

In the following pictures, one can see on the faces of the children and mothers that we met, that they were sincerely happy about their new clothes and blankets.

We are deeply thankful to Mr. Ali and the governor’s team for taking us to the persons in need. All SHOM efforts were totally worth it! Thank you for your help and support!

PS: Our action in Antalya district was reported on various tweets and article. Take a look!

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