Reaching out to different communities within Australia’s diverse culture is an important part of raising awareness of the international work of ShelterBox. Last month, Sydney-based “Turkish News Weekly” published a story on our response to the earthquake that stuck Van in October last year, and the personal tale of Inverell SRT, Greg Moran’s involvement. Below is a copy of the story and a link to the original.
“On 23rd October 2011 a massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Southeast Turkey with it’s epicentre at the village of Tabanli, 20 kilometres north of Van city. More than 2,000 buildings collapsed, 600 people were killed and thousands left homeless. An assessment team from international disaster relief organisation, ShelterBox was mobilised immediately and on the ground in Van in a matter of days. An urgent need for emergency shelter was immediately apparent, with many forced to sleep outside in freezing conditions. The Turkish Government made an official request for international assistance and the assessment team ordered in an initial 1,000 relief packages contained in the charity’s iconic green box.
As the name suggests, ShelterBox specialises in the provision of emergency shelter following natural and man-made disasters around the world. The cornerstone of the relief package is the Shelterbox Relief Tent, specially made by Scottish manufacturer, Vango. It can house up to 10 people, is fully waterproof and can withstand winds of up to 100 mph. Also in the box are thermal blankets, groundsheets, a stove, cooking utensils, water purification equipment and a children’s pack. Boxes can be packed at short notice to include other items needed dependent on conditions, (e.g. malaria resistant mosquito nets are sent to tropical areas). In response to the severe winter conditions in Turkey, sets of thermal hats, scarves and gloves were included and, for the first time, an insulating liner for the tent.
ShelterBox has 20 affiliate organisations around the world and has been active in Australia since 2003. Boxes are always accompanied by international Response Team members (or “SRTs”), volunteers whose job it is to ensure that aid gets to where it’s most needed. Greg Moran, 58, is one such Australian volunteer. A civil engineer from Inverell, NSW has been an SRT for 3 years and involved wth Shelterbox since 2005. Below is an account of his work in and around the city of Van.
Aussie SRT, Greg Moran (far right)
“Shelterbox advised me regarding this deployment mid-morning on Wednesday 9th Nov and, amazingly, I was in Istanbul by 5.00am on Friday 11th. I met with the rest of team on day one. There were 3 Brits , 1 Canadian , 1 American and myself from Oz. The team dynamics were terrific and under the team leadership of Ian Neale , everyone got on well to achieve the desired outcome. By the end of the two-week period we had delivered almost 1400 ShelterBoxes.”
“This was going to be a different deployment for me, on a number of counts as it was approaching winter in Turkey and I had never experienced an earthquake or aftershocks before. Van was larger than I expected and the level of devastation was alarming, with building after building severely damaged, and all residents evacuated. At night, there were no lights in a large part of the city, a testament to the fact that so many people had moved out and gone to friends or relatives in other places. The damage in and around Van was not just physical. We found that the psychological effect on the residents was massive with so many people looking for tents or alternative accommodation, too afraid to enter their homes. What was most heart-wrenching was to see a line of men, stretching over a kilometre, waiting at the police compound in the falling snow, to have aid and tents delivered to them. They were cold and bedraggled, having waited for so long.
“There were people living and sleeping in cars and under tarps and their need was so great. We were assisted by the provincial government, The Red Crescent, Kitzaly, SES and the Turkish Army, whose professionalism shone through in their speed in creating a tent city from nothing in a matter of days. They were organised, prepared and magnificent in their operation. Both the army and the police assisted us greatly with road and air transport for the boxes and provided the team with a vehicle and security to move around with.”
“The team also worked in the mountainous hinterland to the north and the east of Van. These villagers had not received any aid whatsoever and were in great need. I was fortunate enough to travel to the villages of Golardi and Agarti to assist with ShelterBox distribution and to demonstrate how to erect the tents. The people of the villages were extremely grateful and hospitable and were moved that a team of people from the US, UK and Australia had come to assist them. The Imams and Muktas were also very grateful and ensured we had a meal and much tea before we were allowed to leave on the treacherous, narrow and snow covered road back to Van.”
“It was indeed a moving deployment, but one where much was achieved, not only with the distribution of 1400 tents to help people survive, but also in surmounting barriers and building bridges of friendship with the local people, letting them know the rest of the world does care about their plight.”
ShelterBox has responded to over 20 disasters this year, with Australian SRTs active in 10 of them. ShelterBox relies entirely on donations from the public and the support of Rotary International. You can help ShelterBox continue it’s important work around the world by visiting www.shelterboxaustralia.com.au and making a donation or phoning 1300 996 038
To see the original article go to Turkish News Weekly