A delegation from the US state of Virginia was in the working class neighborhood of Umraniye in İstanbul on Monday, delivering food and blankets to Syrian families with the help of the charities Kimse Yok Mu and Embrace Relief.
The delegation was made up of representatives from Virginia, including Prince William County Supervisor Marty Nohe, former Loudoun County Board Chairman Scott York, Purcellville Mayor Bob Lazaro and, Northern Virginia Regional Commission Executive Director Mark Gibb.
Monday was their third day delivering blankets and food to families in some of İstanbul's most hard to reach areas, a mission they were able to undertake in partnership with the charities.
The Virginians will be delivering blankets and clothing to over 20,000 families during their visit to Turkey – deliveries will be made around Istanbul and throughout refugee camps located in Turkey's Southeast. On Monday alone, the group expected to deliver aid to the homes of 40 families.
Lazaro explained to Today's Zaman that over the past three years, the group has been able to collect 100 tons of coats and blankets in the US to deliver to displaced Syrians in Turkey.
“To whom much is given, much is expected, and we are coming from some of the most affluent parts of the United States; therefore, we hope that we can be of some assistance,” Lazaro stated. The delegation comes from Loudoun County in Virginia, where the median household income is one of the highest in the US at $199,134 a year, according to the county's department of planning.
When asked how they were able to arrange such a feat, Nohe explained that it was through their work with staff from the Turkish charity Kimse Yok Mu that they were able to understand which families were in most desperate need and focus on those families first.
“You can't help everyone, so you need to focus resources on families you can help the most,” Nohe said, adding that NGOs can achieve the appropriate distribution of aid with by learning who needs what.
With the aid of translators, the group was able to communicate with refugees and hear about their hardships.
One young man told the group how his family had been forced to illegally cross the border from Syria into the Turkish border province of Hatay. Another woman expressed her appreciation for the aid but lamented her husband's inability to work due to his poor health. The group also witnessed the harsh living conditions of the families in the neighborhoods, which Lazaro explained would make it difficult to return to the comforts of America, adding that it would push them to return.
Published on Today's Zaman, 15 February 2016, Monday