Earthquake Disaster Relief: Reflections on Volunteering in Türkiye
In the early morning of February 6, 2023, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Türkiye and Syria, sending shockwaves hundreds of miles, reaching even Lebanon and Cyprus. Two major quakes (magnitude 6.7 and 7.6) followed in the next 9 hours, killing over 50,000 people and displacing millions.
This disaster marked the region’s strongest earthquake in 100 years, garnering international aid from across the globe—including volunteers from All Hands and Hearts, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that provides post-disaster relief worldwide.
After the February quakes, Washington State Safety Assessment Facility Evaluators (WAsafe)—an organization that trains and organizes citizens to provide post-earthquake building safety assessments—sent out a call to its trained volunteers for assistance with building safety evaluations.
With Anchor QEA’s encouragement, Principal Engineer John Laplante joined the group of WAsafe experts headed to the Middle East.
Arrival in Kahramanmaraş
On April 17, John arrived in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaraş, prepared to use his engineering expertise for safety evaluations—but the road ahead did not unfold as planned.
When the WAsafe engineers arrived, the plan for post-earthquake building evaluations changed. Government approvals were not obtained for volunteer engineering assessments, so WAsafe’s engineers reprioritized efforts to support their sponsor, All Hands and Hearts, by supplementing the efforts of numerous Türkiye-based and international disaster relief organizations.
For the engineers, this meant working alongside other local and international volunteers setting up camp for displaced families, preparing and distributing food, deconstructing non-essential shelters, sorting donations, and building structures so women and families could gather safely to seek shelter from the weather.
Two weeks of work in Kahramanmaraş quickly ended, and it was time for John and his WAsafe cohort to allow the next wave of volunteers to take over. Even after returning home, it was difficult for John to process the emotions regarding this unexpected experience.
“It was indescribable witnessing a 10-story building turned to rubble, but even with the overwhelming reality of suffering, it was inspiring to see the support from volunteers around the world and, especially, the resilience of those rebuilding their lives. Still, the job’s not done, and I hope my experience reminds my fellow staff members that we work at a company that encourages us to go the extra mile.”
Learn about Anchor QEA’s commitment to community involvement and its Volunteer Grant Program here.