Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Oct 02nd
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Home Global Activities Asia Goodwill Flows through Aid Distributions in Türkiye

Goodwill Flows through Aid Distributions in Türkiye

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At the distribution site in El Menahil International School, people embraced each other sincerely, and love spread everywhere. Looking at these moving scenes, Tzu Chi volunteer Nadya Chou expressed her deep emotions:  “Over ten years ago, when refugees escaped the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, they settled in Türkiye. Now, they can finally deliver this love to the hands of the Turkish people. This road has not been easy.” Her words were full of tenderness, satisfaction, and indescribable gratitude.

On February 6, 2023, a catastrophic earthquake struck the south of Türkiye, causing heavy damage. International aid poured in. Tzu Chi Türkiye's emergency relief began on February 17 and lasted until March 27, with a total of 40 successful distributions. The road to recovery is long. Although emergency distributions have temporarily ended, Tzu Chi volunteers continue to care for those affected. On the afternoon of April 29, they also held a distribution event as usual at El Menahil International School in Sultangazi, Istanbul for 150 Turkish care households.


Eager to Repay

The Tzu Chi disaster relief team from Taiwan, together with Tzu Chi volunteers in Türkiye, conducted the 40 distributions in the earthquake-stricken provinces of Hatay, Gaziantep, and Sanliurfa. They distributed aid to 38,926 households -- a total of 187,581 people  -- in the hardest-hit areas, providing life-saving food and supplies to those in need.

According to Tzu Chi volunteer Faisal Hu, the success of these relief efforts would not have been possible without the support of Tzu Chi's leadership. They include Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi, the monastics at Jing Si Abode, and volunteers around the world, as well as the local Turkish volunteers who played a crucial role in reaching such a large number of people.

Hu emphasized that the 2,085 people involved in the distributions included 45 in the first group, 43 in the second, and 53 in the third. Many were refugees or students who had previously received assistance from Tzu Chi. They traveled from Istanbul, over 1,000 kilometers (about 621.37 mi) away, on a bus journey that lasted 11 hours. They were eager to help the earthquake victims and repay the country that had welcomed them.

"We set up in every distribution location like nomads," Hu said sadly. He and the children who were nurtured by love in times of hardship worked together to help the earthquake victims. They brought the  tables, chairs, computers, and other equipment used in each distribution from the Tzu Chi El Menahil International School in Istanbul, hundreds of miles away.

Each distribution was completed smoothly and efficiently; everyone worked together to prepare the site and clean up after the distribution. They then moved to the next location, traveling from villages to small towns to provinces. They never stopped despite the long and difficult journey.

Happy to Help

During the one-month relief distribution, many volunteers took turns to help, including several graduates from El Menahil International School who are now in college. They had fled Syria with their families to seek refuge in Turkiye, where they received assistance from the Turkish government and Tzu Chi. Faced with the recent earthquake, they temporarily put their studies aside and joined the relief efforts; they became essential and valuable participants at the distribution sites.

The information for the 40 distributions was communicated through text messages; but many people thought they were scams and missed them. The relief team discovered that some of the recipients who received the notifications did not have smartphones or were unsure of how to respond, so they took the time to assist and register their details. This overcame the challenge of incomplete data to achieve a new record in distribution rates.

Musa Al Ahmed, a Syrian volunteer majoring in computer engineering in his second year of college, spoke to the disaster victims in a gentle and patient tone: "Please keep an eye on your text messages. We will notify you separately." He felt sad to see the suffering of the disaster victims and the collapse of their homes; but he also felt fortunate to be able to help them follow in Tzu Chi's footsteps.

In addition to assisting his fellow villagers, Musa used his professional camera to document the heartwarming interactions on the scene. In the process, he could see his own helpless past and gradually heal his wounded heart.

Tzu Chi volunteer David Yu, who accompanied Musa throughout the journey, was moved and praised him, "He is so enthusiastic. I was deeply touched. It is as Master Cheng Yen said -- because we understand the suffering of the people, we take the initiative to help them.”

Another touching story came from Kahraman Muhammed, a Syrian volunteer who graduated from El Menahil International School and is now a freshman majoring in interior design in college. He was also responsible for recording the stories on the distribution site.

"I have been in Türkiye since 2013, and ten years have passed. I am grateful to Tzu Chi for taking care of us, and I am grateful to the Turkish government for accepting us and opening its doors to us. Now, with this earthquake, it's time for us to give back." Each photo in his phone album carries a story, reflecting his meticulous care and sense of duty, all of which stem from the love in his heart.

Distribution As Usual

"As soon as the earthquake happened, Master Cheng Yen hoped that volunteers would quickly reach the disaster area to provide assistance, so we went there. We stood together with you during the most difficult times," said Nadya Chou, who has always held onto her original mission. Her unwavering belief shines brightly in her eyes.

She is sincerely grateful to the Tzu Chi volunteers in Taiwan who stood on the streets and in front of stores and held donation boxes to raise funds for Türkiye -- even though they were 8,000 kilometers away. Love never stops; it is the strongest support behind the Turkish volunteers. Nadya emphasized that disaster victims, whether they are Turkish, Syrian, or from any other country, deserve to receive help because this is "Great Love Without Borders." There is no demand for repayment.

An unexpected earthquake has brought the Tzu Chi volunteers in Türkiye and the local volunteers closer together, with their love becoming stronger. The Tzu Chi Foundation in Türkiye has been caring for Syrian refugees since 2014 and holds regular distribution events every month.

After the distribution for the disaster victims, the volunteers immediately held a regular distribution for 150 households at El Menahil International School on the afternoon of April 29th. They help poor Turkish families face the economic difficulties caused by inflation and earthquakes.

"Tzu Chi is a dedicated organization. Master Cheng Yen advocates the spirit of the Bamboo Piggy Bank and hopes that everyone can 'save five cents a day' (a small amount of change) and generate a good thought every day. When these accumulate, they can become a great force to help everyone," said Faisal Hu, who never forgets to share this thought at the distribution site. He believes that a good thought can reverse one's destiny.


Grateful Hearts

On that day, gift cards and blankets were distributed. “The blankets were made by local manufacturers and looked very beautiful and practical with Tzu Chi's logo," said a volunteer joyfully, hoping to warm the hearts of the care recipients.

Zehra, a Turkish language teacher, told the audience: "Over 99% of the students here are Syrian children. Thanks to the help of Tzu Chi Foundation, these children can have the opportunity to receive education and transform their lives." El Menahil International School is a school supported by the love of Taiwanese people. Zehra firmly told everyone: "I am proud of it."

The Syrian volunteers lined up in an orderly manner and handed over the envelopes containing gift cards to the care recipients with both hands. These volunteers, who grew up and thrived in adversity, were once refugees themselves. Whether caring for earthquake victims or taking care of households, they were equally passionate, and able to personally give back with love. With grateful hearts and the power of gratitude, their mission was accomplished perfectly.

Suna, who came to receive the subsidy that day, said excitedly: "May Allah bless you. You are so kind and close to our hearts. What else can I say?"

Another woman, Derya, was also deeply moved. She said: "I sincerely thank you, not only for Syria or Türkiye but also for all Turkish people. It's nice to have you!" The subtle connection between karma and the circulation of kindness is indescribable. Selfless love melts every obstacle and warms all of us.


A Jing Si Aphorism says: “A person with a generous heart and compassion for all beings leads the most blessed life.”

Join Tzu Chi. Let us spread warmth to the needy together.


Report from Turkey by Nadya Chou, Zhi-Jie Xiao, and Xiu-Lin Wu