(ANS – New Rochelle) – Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has launched an emergency appeal to provide disaster relief for those impacted by the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck in Kahramanmaraş province in southern Turkey, very close to Syria’s northwestern border, on Feb. 6. The earthquake was felt in 14 countries, including Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus and Jordan.
The Turkey/Syria Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund will bring critical medical supplies, food, water and support to survivors, helping them to heal and rebuild their lives. Salesian missionaries living and working in Turkey and Syria were among those first at the scene of the impact. The Salesian center in Aleppo sustained some minor damage and people rushed to the center for support.
“The earthquake was very strongly felt and for a long time,” explained Father Alejandro León, superior of the Salesian Province of the Middle East, from Kafroun, near Homs and the Lebanese border. “Initial information received from Aleppo is that our center there suffered some minor damage due to cracks and some broken glass, but Salesians and the people we assist nearby are fine despite the earthquake.”
Fr. León added, “Some families took refuge in our house in Aleppo. They arrived with only the clothes they had on. Their homes are not in good condition because of the war and they feel safer with us. We know that there are many dead and that many buildings have collapsed, so we will offer shelter, food and emergency aid with all the basic necessities we can offer in these first moments.”
More than 37,000 people have been reported dead and tens of thousands have been injured. Many more are still missing. Thousands of homes and buildings have collapsed, burying people who were asleep at the time the earthquake happened. Aid relief to impacted rebel-held areas of northwest Syria has been complicated amid a long-running civil war. While the Syrian government approved sending aid to those territories, they provided no timeline or plan for delivering the aid.
In Aleppo and other areas where Salesians serve, people have nowhere to go and nowhere to sleep. Salesian missionaries who have been serving those in Syria since the beginning of the war are doing their best to help those victims reaching out to them and providing shelter, food, warm clothes, blankets and more.
Father Pier Jabloyan, provincial delegate for social communication, said, “More than 300 people have been welcomed and helped by the Salesians, collaborators, and the entire Salesian family in Aleppo. We are trying to do what we can, despite the challenges and difficulties. It is snowing in Syria and there is a lack of power and a lack of fuel. The population is really having a difficult time.”
Salesian missionaries operate three centers in Kafroun and the particularly high-conflict areas of Aleppo and Damascus. Throughout the ongoing war and struggles in the country, Salesian centers continue to meet the needs of their communities through the distribution of food, economic aid and scholarships to help young people continue with their schooling.
Salesians around the globe are working to provide the financial and material resources needed to help those who have been impacted by the earthquake. To provide support, donate to the Salesian Missions Turkey/Syria Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund