Kits warm hearts in Turkey


BOLU, TURKEY (March 7, 2000) -- Kits assembled by compassionate U.S.-based church members and individuals continue to reach the hands of earthquake survivors in Turkey. Smiles lit up the faces of weary earthquake survivors living in a tent city outside of Bolu as they opened kits containing toothbrushes, bandages, diapers, lotion, and other personal and family necessities.

When the kits arrived, word spread rapidly through the 1,000-tent community. Survivors with young children and infants quickly depleted the camp's allotment of health kits and layette kits from Church World Service (CWS).

Throughout the quake-affected region in Turkey, winter weather has compounded the misery of makeshift living, with wet snow often falling. But when "Gift of the Heart" kits arrive, people's spirits are visibly lifted.

In Bolu, 4,000 personal hygiene/health kits and 1,000 baby layettes were shipped by CWS and distributed by Turkey Action Church Together (TACT), a coalition of Christians working together in quake relief.

Mothers, who brought their infants with them, beamed with joy at receiving diapers, powder, lotion and other baby care items. TACT leaders held babies many times while their mothers received a layette and several health kits -- one for each family member.

Nusret Miroglu, governor of Bolu Province, told TACT relief leaders that he was thankful to them and to the World Council of Churches for the love and feelings given to his people. "I hope the same care given to my people will also be given to people in other parts of the world," he said. "My hope is that all people have a better life and live together," he said.

The kits were one example of how local U.S.-based congregations and individuals can help international disaster survivors. Church members from many denominations assembled kits. Kit assembly is an activity often taken on by mission committees, women's or men's groups, youth groups, and Sunday School classes. Assembled kits are then shipped to the CWS warehouse in New Windsor, Md. for final packing. CWS then ships the kits to the affected area. In Bolu City, the water department stored and then delivered kits to the tent cities at Bolu and the village of Kaynasli, 10 miles west of the city. Local authorities determined who received the kits according to need.

Following the distribution in Bolu, TACT leaders traveled west to Kaynasli, where Mayor Efdal Altundal helped TACT distribute the kits from the back of his VW van.

The town of Kaynasli also depends on TACT for tents and water resourcing. As the mayor's van parked in the middle of a narrow snow-packed street in the midst of tents, residents quickly gathered with arms outstretched, smiles on their faces, and "thank yous" from their lips.

CWS sent a shipment of blankets in December to the tent cities as well. Even though survivors sleep in heated tents, they still spend many of their waking hours outside.

Alina Turtoi, director of distribution for TACT, said that the response "has given more than material goods. We have given people hope."

TACT was established by Christian churches in Turkey immediately following the first deadly quake last August. It works with the Turkish government, which is in charge of overall relief efforts.

Turkey is 99.9 percent Muslim. Less than .1 percent is Christian according to Amaniel Bagdas, a TACT committee coordinator, who also works with the International Bible Society.

Posted March 7, 2000

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