This week, two massive earthquakes and many aftershocks hit southeast Turkey and northern Syria. In a matter of minutes, many people's lives were instantly devastated. With the quakes' epicentres being in Kahramanmaras, people in surrounding towns and villages of Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, Sanliurfa, Aleppo and Idlib, also had their lives suddenly disrupted, never to be the same again. The government has declared ten provinces in Turkey as disaster zones and announced an official period of mourning.
While we have not been to North West Syria before, we have read reports that thousands of people already displaced due to war had their lives disrupted yet again. With internally displaced Syrians living in camps, communication facilities are non-existent, and health and food facilities are dire.
We have often travelled around southeast Turkey. The area is of utmost cultural heritage importance with many ancient sites. Unfortunately, some, like Gaziantep castle, which reflects the lives of earlier generations in the region, no longer stand. Additionally, local communities' hospitality and friendly atmospheres have welcomed people from all over the world to explore their cultural backgrounds, traditions and beliefs, which portray a different face to Turkey, away from sunny beach resorts.
Every day, we watch the news unfold with heavy hearts as we can only imagine the pain and heartache that local communities in Turkey and Syria face for many years to come. Authorities have urged people not to send unsolicited help because they want to keep the roads clear and concentrate on people affected without causing further mayhem and disruption. While we cannot ease their pain, we have joined millions of people from around the world to help in any way we can, and we would like to share the details so you can too.
Local Communities: If you are in Turkey, head to your local mosque, which is accepting donations of much-needed items like blankets, baby food and tinned goods. They will also be able to tell you of scheduled points where you can give blood. Alternatively, your local municipality will also have details of how you can help.
AFAD: This government organisation carries out search and rescue operations and distributes food, tents and blankets to local people. If you have a Turkish mobile number, write "DEPREM" and send it to 1866 to donate 20 lira. You can send as many texts as you like. Alternatively, they accept donations worldwide, and details are on their website here.
Islamic Relief UK: The Islamic relief organisation in the UK are also taking donations on their website here. They support search and rescue teams and distribute much-needed food and medicine.
AKUT: AKUT is a voluntary, non-governmental organisation involved in searching, assisting and rescuing all who require aid, and they are also taking donations.
Oxfam and UNICEF are two other international organisations taking donations to help people in Turkey and Syria. So as we sit here, we can only pray and hope for those millions of people affected and also give thanks to the people who are helping in their time of need.