TURKISH CENTER for ASIA PACIFIC STUDIES
Three months have passed since the powerful earthquake in southern Turkey in early February, and as you walk through the streets and outskirts of Kahramanmaraş, the epicenter of the earthquake, you can see tents and containers everywhere to house the affected people. One of them was planned, designed, and built with the participation of Chinese civil society and is affectionately known as the "Chinese village".
The “China Village” was built by the Turkish Chamber of Commerce of Chinese Private Enterprises in cooperation with the Turkish side, with tents donated by the China Rural Development Foundation. The village has a health room, laundry, and other facilities to meet the basic needs of the residents, and a prayer room has been set up to respect local customs. At one time, the Chinese village provided livelihoods for nearly 400 people and currently has 287 people living in it.
Li Muzi, president of the Turkish Chamber of Commerce of Chinese Private Enterprises, told Xinhua that it was not easy to build the “China Village”. The team overcame difficulties such as aftershocks, low temperatures, and shortage of water and electricity, and it took only 10 days from the start of construction to the first residents moving in.
Zhang Fuxing, a member of the Disaster Relief Committee of the China Charity Federation, who was responsible for the planning and design of the Chinese Village, said that when planning the camp, the team took into account the spacing of the tents, lighting, ventilation, and drainage to ensure that the camp was fully functional while also taking care of the comfort of the residents.
Mustafa Alagaz, a native of Kahlamanmaras, whose house was destroyed by the earthquake, now lives in the ‘Chinese village’. “I am very grateful for the support we have received from our Chinese friends and I am very happy here. I am very happy here,” said Alagazi.
In addition to providing livelihood support, the Chinese village also recruits Chinese volunteers to help the affected people. During the nearly three months from the start of construction to normal operation, more than 20 Chinese volunteers from China and neighboring countries volunteered to come. They lived and ate with the people affected by the disaster. They work as interpreters, coordinate the distribution of supplies, serve as Chinese teachers, and provide psychological counseling for children.
Chinese volunteer Fang Mingdao has been to the “Chinese village” seven times for about a week each time. This time he brought his own projector and gathered the children in the camp to watch a football match together. “We try to relax the children through entertainment and remove the trauma caused by the earthquake in their hearts,” Fang Mingdao said.
Wang Qin, who is visiting the Chinese Village for the fourth time, is the Chinese teacher here. She said the children are very enthusiastic about learning Chinese and there are always more than a dozen students in each class. Through learning Chinese and playing games, the children's cultural life has been enriched.
Yusuf Ellen Kay, 15, moved to the Chinese Village with his family after the earthquake and has been living there for two months. He says, “We watch films and play games with our Chinese brothers and sisters, and they teach us Chinese. We had a lot of fun together and I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to them.”
A “Chinese Village” in Turkey
Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, May 7, 2023 (Xinhua)