Mevish Khan is a Freedom of Information Officer at the Trust. Following the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, she gave up her own time to fly out to Turkey to help with relief efforts. Here, Mevish gives us an insight into the realities of life in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
When I heard what happened, I just felt so helpless, I’ve been to Turkey travelling and I knew I just needed to be there. I used some annual leave, I got support from work, I have two jobs and my colleagues from Boots donated nappies and sanitary products to take out with me.
I flew out with a friend with the Abu Faisal Trust, a charity which has a 100 per cent donation policy. Our job that week was to give out food parcels, supplies and money and provide emotional support. We landed in Istanbul and then flew to Adana and onto Hatay, which was really devastated.
In Adana, you could still sense the fear in people because obviously they were so close to the epicentre. It was so sad to see. People still had this fear because another earthquake was expected. We had mentally and emotionally prepared before we flew out but it was unbelievably sad and a lot to take in.
We were a team of six and had a translator and photographer with us.
I think the minute it hit us was when we made a stop on our way to Hatay and we came across military trucks and people in jackets saying ‘United Sikhs’. It struck me – I was so glad I was there with people from all over the world trying to help these people. I overcame my fear of flying to get there.
Town after town, village after village were completely destroyed. It was so surreal and heartbreaking when you think how many people have been affected. TV doesn’t do it justice - the extent of the damage is shocking. In Hatay the devastation on the people’s faces was heartbreaking, they’ve lost so much, their homes, their businesses, family members and friends.
We felt another earthquake aftershock on the Monday. I started seeing a few rescue workers and trucks where they were moving the rubble to get to the bottom. In my head, I kept thinking, imagine how many people are still buried under that rubble. You could see personal belongings, crushed toys and prams, photographs, holy books. I hugged everyone I could to give emotional support.
We met a man who’d lost a shoe factory and he was there trying to save any little bits he could from under the rubble. He’d gone from being a successful businessman to being homeless and living in clothes that he’d been living in for the last few weeks. Our job there was to be able to provide people with hot meals and supplies. We’d raised thousands to get out there and help with food parcels. We met a young couple, they and their young children escaped but their elderly grandparents didn’t and they were trying to salvage family items.
We moved from Hatay because it wasn’t safe and went to the campsites where we could really help and deliver the hot meals and that’s where you saw the stark reality of how their lives had completely changed. Blankets were used as carpet and makeshift tents.
We moved from there to Mersin, a four hour drive away. We met lots of homeless people and orphans and helped them with hot food and supplies. It was literally trying to be there for these people in any way that we could. And it was hard, obviously, language was an issue and we had one translator between us all. But anything that we could communicate, felt so good.
On the Tuesday it was my dad’s birthday, so I felt emotional. He died of COVID-19 in 2020, which I struggled with. I wanted to honour his legacy. I met one lady who shared with me that she had lost her husband in the earthquake and she also showed me a picture of her daughter who graduated last summer and was also killed. It helped me too, in the sense we were both grieving. We had a shared human moment together in our loss, both grieving in our own way. We talked, shared and understood each other. It gave me strength.
In the campsites they really appreciated us being there – that all these people had come from around the world to help them. It was incredible they wanted to take selfies with us, we didn’t expect that. Coming home was a challenge.
My heart is still out there, I just wish I was still there with the people. When you look at the rubble and think of the people that have lost their things and I just think, I wish I could help them find their belongings.
I would go back in a split second.
So far Mevish has raised more than £4,000 to help survivors. You can still donate.