Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Oct 02nd
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Home Feature Stories 2023 Earthquake in Turkiye and Syria Despite Numerous Challenges, Tzu Chi Conducts Seven Supply Distributions Across Two Provinces in Turkiye

Despite Numerous Challenges, Tzu Chi Conducts Seven Supply Distributions Across Two Provinces in Turkiye

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Starting from February 25, Tzu Chi disaster relief held over four consecutive days seven distributions in two provinces severely affected by the recent earthquake -- Hatay and Gaziantep, in southern Turkiye. The first distribution took place at the Taiwan – Rey Hanle Global Citizenship Center in Hatay, where 1,552 people received gift cards, blankets, and scarves. Tzu Chi volunteers hoped to bring warmth to the victims during the cold winter.


The Taiwan – Rey Hanle Global Citizenship Center was originally established as a place for Syrian refugees to study. After the earthquake, thousands of victims flooded into the area, and Tzu Chi selected the location for its first distribution in the disaster-stricken area.

With sincerity, Tzu Chi distributed supplies in the hardest-hit area

Many parents brought their children to the distribution site and arrived early to wait. The distribution started at 2:00 pm local time. This was the first distribution of Tzu Chi in the heavily affected area after the earthquake. In addition to providing relief supplies, volunteers also prepared letters of condolence from Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi Foundation, to bless the affected residents.

It was not easy to carry out this distribution. It was the result of Tzu Chi's advanced relief team visiting local charity organizations and government agencies several times over the past two weeks. Zachary Hsieh, a member of the advance relief team, said: "Our mission is to understand the actual situation in each place. When we arrived here, we represent the Tzu Chi Foundation to officially intervene." The advanced disaster relief team arrived on the 15th and identified Hatay, Adana, Osmaniye, and Gaziantep as the main disaster relief areas.

The Vice CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation, Simon Shyong, stated: "Coming here, the most important to us is to distribute the aid supplies quickly. We kept visiting provincial governors, mayors, and NGOs with whom we can cooperate without delay, and clarify the distribution channels, recipient groups, and institutes."

During the past two weeks, Tzu Chi had to overcome barriers of distance, language, and especially religion. Government agencies and local charities, which knew little about Tzu Chi, were naturally wary and suspicious. It is no wonder that people would think: “You say you want to give without expectation, but are you using Buddhism as a cover to preach?" Nevertheless, Tzu Chi's charitable work in Turkiye has been steady and reliable for over 20 years. Tzu Chi volunteer Faisal Hu, a Muslim, shared his experiences with Tzu Chi with government officials. In addition, Ali Uslanmaz, a former deputy governor with a deep connection with Tzu Chi, spoke up for the organization. As a result, Tzu Chi gained the trust it sought.

Looking back on the road Tzu Chi has taken, from the 1999 Turkiye earthquake relief to years of refugee assistance, Tzu Chi volunteer Zachary Hsieh feels thankful: "Each relief aid or action has a different meaning, each time deepening its karmic significance." Vice CEO Simon Shyong said; "Tzu Chi has its principles, which are to distribute aid to the truly affected households, and we would like to give directly by hand. In addition, the standards we follow for distribution are blessed by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, and we hope to uphold our position."

With clear goals and a steadfast belief in helping others, Tzu Chi was able to enter the severely affected areas and conduct disaster assessment visits on site. They were also allowed to directly distribute aid by hand; in doing so, they adhered to Tzu Chi's relief principles of direct, targeted, respectful, practical, and timely aid. This mission in the disaster zone has taken a big step forward.

A cycle of goodness: past recipients become volunteers to help others

Aid distribution is a complex task that requires a lot of manpower. Therefore, Tzu Chi mobilized 40 local volunteers to support the efforts from Istanbul. Most of these volunteers are Syrian refugees who have received assistance from Tzu Chi in the past. They arrived in the province of Hatay on February 25 in the early morning and immediately started working after a short break.

Adel Alomar, a 61-year-old, was one of the refugees aided by Tzu Chi during 2014-2015. Today, he is a Tzu Chi volunteer and joined in the relief distribution wearing the same uniform as other volunteers, dedicating himself to helping disaster victims. Adel said: "Wearing this uniform makes me feel great, especially when helping people in need."

Since they have been dedicated to Tzu Chi for a long time and have extensive experience in distribution, the operation of the distribution and the control of the process are not difficult for them. However, their first distribution outside Istanbul is testing their adaptability, especially since so many houses were destroyed and the disaster area is like a vast open space. A local volunteer, Basel, said: "It's too big here. People can come from all directions. Therefore, to maintain order at the distribution site, we need to deal with it wisely." Faisal Hu, a Tzu Chi volunteer in Turkiye, also remarked: "This is very different from distributing in El Menahil, and the distributions afterward will be in other locations as well."

No matter how great the difficulties are, they cannot dampen everyone's enthusiasm to help the earthquake victims. Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan, Turkiye, and Syria will move forward hand in hand and continue to work together to complete every distribution.

Article: by Department of History and Literature, Tzu Chi Charity Foundation, 2023/02/28.