How the Turkish hospitality industry rallied to aid earthquake victims
The first time I really understood the gravity of damage that comes with a life-altering earthquake was in 2010, when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit my paternal homeland of Haiti. Shortly after getting the news, my aunt, Marie France Conde, moved hell and high water to be one of the first doctors on the scene. It took her two days to arrive in Port-Au-Prince (no commercial flights were allowed into the country) and when she arrived, she said that the airport landing strip looked like “a warzone.” A pediatrician, my aunt jumped into action: Building and running makeshift infirmaries for children and trying to create some form of order in the face of insurmountable — and ongoing — need. “Even now, over ten years later, there are still people who have not been able to rebuild their homes,” she said.
As I think about the recent earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria, I see parallels between what happened in Haiti and what’s happening thousands of miles across the world. While the tragedy of that natural disaster was plastered all over our screens for days, the news cycle has focused less on the people and the amazing professionals who are aiding at the epicenter — like those in the hospitality industry who have jumped in to help their fellow citizens.
Food writer and host Refika Birgül and cookbook author Ece Zaim joined forces with Bahçeşehir University’s culinary program to fill 20,000 donated jars and lids with nutritious meals for residents at and near the epicenter. Yaren Carpar, chef and owner of Istanbul’s Ema Bakery and Catering, is currently located with her team in İskenderun, where they have partnered with a local church to feed and distribute food. Chef and television personality Türev Uludağ, with the help of his team and growing community, is feeding thousands of people through kitchens in Osmaniye, Kahramanmaraş, Kilis, Elbistan, Adıyaman, Gaziantep, Iskenderun and more. He’s also partnering with other notable chefs, like Ebru Baybara Demir, to create nutritious sustainable meals.
A number of hotels that were not affected by the earthquake have opened their doors to refugees in need of shelter, as well, and are partnering with local institutions and individuals to provide as much assistance as possible. According to Reuters, over 11,000 displaced earthquake survivors were being housed in hotels in Antalya, a southern region on the Mediterranean sea, as of February. One such hotel is Kaya Belek, which opened its doors to earthquake victims and partnered with Abant Water to deliver over 100 trucks of water to victims living in provinces affected by the earthquake.
Miles away in Istanbul, hotels like the Çırağan Palace (a 19th-century Ottoman palace-turned-luxury-lodging) coordinated with the Ministry of Interior Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency and other government authorities to send multiple truckloads of emergency disaster recovery supplies — like all-purpose generators, portable toilets, wheelchairs, satellite dishes and televisions, baby food, hygienic supplies and so much more. Not only are more supplies continuously being delivered, but the Çırağan Palace has also launched an Earthquake Humanitarian Aid Campaign which will run for the entire year. For the campaign, a donation of about $10 each day will be added to every guest’s bill and, at the end of each month, the Çırağan will match the donation amount.
In addition to food and shelter, the process of repairing and rebuilding damaged structures can be a slow one, if not altogether stagnant. “After the earthquake, a lot of companies with business interest in Haiti left and never came back — for example, so many destroyed factories weren’t rebuilt right away, because the people that owned them no longer saw the country as a priority,” my aunt said. It can take a nation years, even decades, to recover from a natural disaster, but, depending on the world’s view of the disaster — and the people affected — the success of long-term efforts varies. Today, Haiti has yet to fully recover from the aftermath of an earthquake that struck over a decade ago and without a united, international effort, the regions of Turkey and Syria affected by this humanitarian crisis may face similar challenges in the long, difficult road to healing and rebuilding.
Here are a few trusted resources and organizations you may want to consider donating to for earthquake relief: