Leman Yildirim, Services and Liaison Coordinator at CARE Türkiye, was due to get married on 12 February, six days after the earthquake. She had been preparing for the event for two months. But the earthquakes that struck on 6 February, brought about a whole different reality.
“Most of my childhood friends and their families died in the earthquake. Not one single tangible place from my childhood memories survived the earthquakes. Now, only images of those places exist in my head,” said Leman, describing the destruction that struck her hometown Kirikhan, a district of Hatay, one of the most heavily impacted regions.
Leman cancelled her wedding celebrations and got married at city hall instead, returning to work right away — using her own car to help with the distribution of baby food, nappies and blankets.
As part of her work at CARE, she handled all requests coming in from the government’s crisis management mechanisms in Hatay, Adıyaman, Şanlıurfa, and Adana.
Leman spearheaded early assessments about conditions and needs in Şanlıurfa and Adana and helped coordinate the delivery of life-saving supplies to various municipalities – including flour for bread, dry food for hot meals, heaters, hygiene kits and drinking water.
“I started volunteering at the local municipality as soon as the earthquakes struck. I wanted to help. It is my duty to do so. I was lucky I survived. I am also lucky to have a car in which I spent the first night of the earthquake while other people had nothing and were sleeping on the street in the cold and in the snow,” she says.
Leman has moved places of residence three times since the earthquakes while juggling her work as an itinerant humanitarian field coordinator.
Her inspiring selflessness and dedication to helping others and playing a critical role in coordinating relief efforts is truly incredible. Despite everything, Leman remains determined to continue making a positive difference in the lives of her community.
Photo credit: © Mutlu Yetkin/CARE