In Aug 17, 1999, a devastating earthquake hit Turkey, killing more than 17,000 people and causing huge infrastructure damages. In the ensuing rescue operations that followed, one of the poignant human drama stories that came out was about a young boy who was rescued from a collapsed building after a few days.
Trapped in a dark confined space without food and water, he did not lose hope. He cried out continuously: kimse yok mu? (Is anyone there?) His prayers were answered, as his cry for help was heard, and he was rescued after hours of delicate extrication work.
After the rescue, the phrase ‘kimse yok mu’ evolved into a rallying cry for those in need, as well as those who wanted to help. Local TV stations, other media groups and concerned citizens, inspired by the boy’s dramatic rescue, fanned the flames to bring in more local and foreign participation and support for the humanitarian aid that followed.
Today, Kimse Yok Mu (KYM) has grown into a leading Turkish NGO with projects all over the world. Founded as an NGO in January 2002 after the huge demonstration of support during the earthquake, KYM has carried out humanitarian work not just in Turkey, but in 97 other countries, the more prominent of which were in search, rescue and rehab operations in the 2004 Indonesia tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2011 Japan tsunami.
Here in the Philippines, KYM was in Tacloban three days after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan pillaged the city last November. Tacloban’s Mayor Alfred Romualdez recalled that KYM was the very first foreign group he encountered in the ravaged city. The KYM team had taken the first plane from Manila to Cebu after the storm, and boarded a boat which took all of 18 hours to reach Ormoc, before finding their way to Tacloban.
They would then proceed to pitch their tent right in front of what was left of the City Hall, amidst the great chaos and confusion, and the alternating problem of the flies in the daytime and the mosquitoes at night. And they persevered. Many of them would have to be evacuated for various ailments due to the harsh conditions, but most would heroically come back for another rotation or two.
Last March 14, KYM officials signed a protocol with Tacloban covering the many sustainable development projects they had started in the city. This would include the construction of fifty (50) houses, a six-classroom school building and a medical clinic, plus the donation of a fully-equipped ambulance and fifty (50) computers for the heavily-damaged City Hall. This was over and above the repair and refurbishment of the recently-inaugurated Health and Birthing Facility at Brgy Sagkahan, and the City’s Women’s Shelter and Orphanage. And the provision of twenty (20) scholarship grants to orphaned high school students who are now based in Manila. Not to mention the daily distribution of relief goods all over the city. A total of 20,00 relief boxes – consisting of rice, canned goods, other foodstuffs, and personal effects such as sanitary napkins, etc – have been delivered since November, and KYM continues to provide these goods for the still-dazed city inhabitants.
Barangay Sagkahan was one of the hardest-hit areas, having taken the brunt of the 8-meter high storm surge that broke through the shores and brought in the massive casualties. Every family in the area had a casualty from the storm. There is still much to be done to get the people back on their feet, but the Clinic has been a great help in their ongoing efforts at recovery. As for the Shelter and Orphanage, it was noted that cases of young children being abandoned or being sold out for sex had been recorded as a result of the disaster. The Women’s Shelter and Orphanage has been championing the cause of these abandoned or abused children. To this day, Turkish volunteer doctors and psychiatrists continue to man the Clinic and Orphanage.
KYM’s Metin Cetiner announced that they had been able to raise about $2M not just from noble-intentioned citizens of Turkey, but as far as Europe and the Americas in their effort to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. It is indeed heartwarming to know that private citizens from a country as distant as Turkey could go out of their way to provide succor for our brothers in need. City officials were profuse with thanks, even as they noted that while most other countries and foreign organizations have left after 2 weeks in the devastated city, KYM has stayed on – feeding the hungry, treating the sick, teaching the ignorant, helping those in need, or just being around to be a shoulder to cry on – to the pleasant surprise of the Taclobanons.
KYM was able to sustain their mission of providing relief assistance regardless of religion, race, gender or language through the active participation of a robust Turkish community in the Philippines. Led by the Pacific Dialogue Foundation (PDF), the Turkish community in the Philippines has provided a refreshing outlook on international cooperation, solidarity and development through progressive, sustainable solutions. To our valued friends in Kimse Yok Mu, and the Pacific Dialogue Foundation, as well as the friends and supporters of our brother Turkish community in the Philippines, we thank you, and we want you to know that we have learned much from your example. Thank you, once again, and may your tribe increase.
For more on the Turkish community, pls read: https://cbholganzablog.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/fostering-muslim-christian-relations-in-the-philippines-a-step-at-a-time/