ANTAKYA, TURKEY — Gilbert Goh, a Singaporean activist and founder of Love Aid Singapore, is currently on a 17-day humanitarian mission trip with three others, including a Syrian who is a principal of a Syrian school in Lebanon and two others who work at a non-governmental organization.
The team is in Antakya, Turkey, to provide assistance to Syrian refugees who are residing in tents after their homes were destroyed by the recent earthquake on 6 February. As many as three to four million Syrians are now in Turkey seeking refuge from the decade-old war back home in Syria.
Following the second earthquake in Antakya on 21 February, many Syrian refugees in Turkey are forced to sleep outside in the freezing cold where it can drop to 6 degrees at night as they are scared to sleep indoors due to aftershocks and tremors.
Some refugees whose houses are still intact cannot afford a tent and are left with no choice but to endure the harsh weather conditions. Meanwhile, others whose houses were demolished by the earthquake are left homeless and in dire need of shelter.
Goh shared his experience of the second earthquake, saying “We were about to sit and wait for our food at around 7:30 pm when the lights went off suddenly and the ground shook. Immediately, the customers started to rise from their seats and headed for the entrance. It’s surprisingly orderly and calm without any panic given the rather adverse situation – the second series of quakes are probably more scary than the first ones occurred two weeks ago.”
He noted that tents — which are insulated — are expensive and in high demand, with waiting periods of up to ten days or more. The team managed to raise funds for five tents and is aiming for ten more in the area of critical need. “We saw some makeshift flimsy tents which house ten family members meant for only four. If you wish to donate a tent, please get in touch with us,” said Goh.
In addition to distributing food parcels to Syrian refugee families, the team has decided to give 1000 Turkish liras ($50 USD) to fifty families who are stranded at the Syrian-Turkish border.
“The cash is mainly used to pay rent for the still-standing homes or other essential items deemed critical. Many may also use it for transportation to other safer places,” explained Goh.
He noted that NGOs often give out items they think the victims need, but in this case, the team decided to break tradition and distribute cash to allow the refugees to prioritize their own needs.
Despite the risks involved, Goh and his team are continuing with their humanitarian work, but have requested prayers for their safety. He noted that flights and buses out of Adana are booked up to ten days in advance, leaving taxis or private hirers as the only safe mode of transportation.
Goh also urged others to donate to the cause, saying “We managed to distribute 100 food parcels today benefiting many Syrian refugee families. For the record, we have ordered a total of 200 food parcels costing $10,000 USD. We need your support to continue this crucial work.”
The earthquake, which hit southeastern Turkey and north-western regions of neighboring Syria on February 6, killed nearly 44,000 people and injured tens of thousands more. The United Nations has warned that the death toll is set to rise far higher if aid is not delivered to the war-torn regions of Syria. Despite the challenges, Goh and his team are doing what they can to help those in need.
If you wish to donate to Goh’s humanitarian work at Love Aid Singapore, you can contact him via his Instagram account or email him at [email protected] Alternatively, you can make donations through PayNow to 87745281.