This past weekend our volunteers have returned from Van, Turkey, but Fuel Relief Fund continues to distribute Fuel to help keep the elderly, infirm and poor warm in the areas stricken by the earthquake in Turkey.
First of all, we have our donors to thank for this. Without your unfaltering support none of this would be possible. We especially want to thank GlobalGiving for their generous contribution and the Lions Club of the Netherlands for their kind donation and assistance. We are able to continue to give away free fuel (coal) by coordinating with the non-profit organizer in the city of Van, along with the coal company, and a Turkish English teacher. Together we developed a plan to ensure that deliveries continue to those most in need. Fuel Relief Fund is overseeing the effort from our headquarters in Riverside, CA. The victims of the earthquake in Turkey have a long winter ahead of them and many will not have the means to stay warm and healthy, unless we carry on with our effort. All funds we receive will be earmarked for Turkey. We will purchase and deliver coal as long as we receive donations to fund this cause. This is a great step for Fuel Relief Fund as this is the first time that our mission to provide fuel will continue after our staff has left a disaster zone.
The last few days our volunteers were in Van, underscored the continued need to provide a source of warmth for the people in the area. "The nights were bitter cold. The situation was so desperate that one night we encountered people who had taken the wood from their window frames to burn in order to stay warm. Sometimes we were out until 3 in the morning delivering coal. It was heartbreaking to see the living conditions for so many, but uplifting to see their faces and the outpouring of gratitude when they realized we were bringing them enough coal to warm their home or tent for a month."
The Vice Governor of Van, Atay Uslu, also wanted us to tell all Fuel Relief Fund volunteers, donors and the USA how much these coal deliveries mean to him and the people of Van. A lot of people have left this city that at one time housed around a million people. We guess that over 50% have left or will leave the area to find warmth, jobs and a better life. Those left behind do not have the means to move and need our help. If people have enough coal to last at least a month, they will be able to spend more time focusing on other needs, and hopefully it will encourage people to stay and try to rebuild.
Fuel Relief Fund was referred to, in Van, as an International Aid non-profit agency. We were only 1 of 13 agencies from around the world that came to assist after the devastating quake. Our organization has come a very long way in a short period of time!! All board members, volunteers, and donors should be proud to be an important component of our charity. We know the people of Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Haiti, Japan and now Turkey, thank you all very much.
You can always contact us at (909) 322 1481 if you have any questions
Please check out Robert and Ted's Blog.
FUEL RELIEF FUNDKris Salas
The days here compress into non-ordinary sequences of needs and occurrences, each linked together, not by the normal elapsing of time, but by events. Almost all the movements and decisions we’ve had to make since leaving Istanbul for Van – three days ago? four? five?- have required, not only a high tolerance for change, but a flexibility and acceptance that is out of usual experience. Truly, my felt experience is that I’ve been here, in Van, for seven …eight days maybe, when I know that is not so. We’ve been on the ground here in Van for three days (and I had to confirm that with Ted, who was also not sure for a moment). Today is Sunday, November 13 and it is about 3:00 in the afternoon. We are, as I write this, in a building in Van that was identified soon after the first earthquake, as the Disaster Center. We are waiting until about six or seven, when it is dark enough for us to make our second delivery of coal to neighborhoods, which we have identified as being in need of heat. What is soon to become a very desperate need? It is beginning to get very cold in this environment, one that is already harsh by its nature. Many of the shelters are inadequate but may have to last through much of the winter and many people are very poor. Fear about going into buildings to sleep is very easy to understand.
I began to try and write couple of days ago, but the demands of the environment, the difficulty of actually remembering sequences of things that happened and the necessity of what seemed to be constant movement, made it difficult to write something that was coherent. I started with trying to log travel movements, what I saw, who I saw, the landscape etc., but this felt like a tourist travelogue and it seemed silly the more we progressed into the real issues on the ground here in Eastern Turkey. I have abandoned that attempt.
It will have to be enough to say that we arrived in Van late morning on Friday, November 11, spent a night in Istanbul after the flight from the States, took a domestic flight to Mus (a small city two hours flight from Istanbul, about 180 kilometers Northwest of Van), spent a night in Mus and then, early next morning, took a very hot (heat in the bus turned to HIGH and no windows) bus ride to Van. The plan had been for us to be met at the depot by someone who was to help us out but… no one there. We had come into a massive confusion of yelling people, mounds of luggage, buses and cars and taxis (all running), police and soldiers patrolling the area.; no English speakers anywhere, and no clear direction.
Ted finally connected with his friend, Tunc, who called some friends in Van and we were found by Malik Durmaz, a young search and rescue volunteer who comes from Encis and spoke English well enough to allow communication. He understood quickly who we were and what we were doing. He is a university student, studying for his Masters in Psychology who also started a search and rescue club in Istanbul a few years ago. The Lions Club is sponsoring him in his studies. He provided one of the critical needs we constantly have here: a translator with the ability to communicate our words in Turkish. With his intelligence and savvy about what was going on, he was like a Turkish angel that arrived out of the fog.
Tunc also called some associates in Van, Muhammed Ates and Halis Yaman, who came to the bus depot and attempted to help us rent a car. The attempt failed because there were no cars to rent (Ted had reserved a car before he left but…). We decided to try some friends of Halis to see if there was someone with a vehicle who would be willing to drive for us. We waited with these Turkish men, on a quiet, dusty street outside the house of one and were offered many cups of tea (chy) from a small, vertical stove that was brought out onto the street edge for us. This is the generous standard of Turkish hospitality. A car with driver showed up after a few phone calls and we made arrangements to hire him and his car for the duration of the FRF effort. As of this writing, Velle is still with us and has become more than a driver. He is an ally and a partner in decisions. He has brought us to his family tent, an extended family of about 24 people, where we again had tea and were stared at with much interest for a half hour or so. He and his family knew of a tent in the same compound, which we could occupy (with an electric HEATER) and offered it to us. That has been our sleep area for the past two nights and we hope to have it until we leave.
I have to leave the chronology now. There is so much more to tell but this letter already feels too long. I will tell you though, that Fuel Relief Fund purchased 82 tons of coal yesterday- good quality coal- and we will donate all of it before we leave.
Last night we made our first delivery of coal bags, to lots of households that, earlier in the day, were in a neighborhood we had targeted as being in need. We began at about 10:30 p.m. as requested by relief officials. There was about four inches of snow on the ground, it was quite cold and it was still snowing. Our first drop was to what is clearly a neighborhood existing in extreme poverty. The bags of coal should keep a lot of families warm and they sure need it. It is very late and we are all extremely cold and tired. I hope to report on tomorrow’s delivery in more detail in my next letter .
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4344 Latham St. #230Riverside, CA 92501909-322-1481
Dear Friends of Fuel Relief Fund,Just a week ago our organization received very exciting news. Global Giving has assisted Fuel Relief Fund with an extremely generous donation to provide disaster relief in Turkey.The people of Turkey have been suffering after the devastating earthquake that collapsed many buildings in Van and Ercis, leaving thousands homeless and struggling as temperatures drop below freezing. As you are all well aware three things are desperately needed there: food, water, and shelter. In the aftermath of this earthquake fuel has become the fourth necessity. It will be needed to provide heat, run generators or for transportation of people, supplies and equipment.On November 9th, we deployed two volunteers Van, Turkey. Members of Lions Club International have helped us tremendously by putting us in touch with people in Turkey who will assist us in distributing this gift. Please check our website and our Facebook page for updates on this latest relief effort. We will do our best to keep you informed of our volunteers' progress.
If you have any questions please feel free to call Kris Salas (909) 322-1481 or Ted Honcharik at (951) 233-0283.Thanks so much,Kris Salas
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