Turkey: Distributing Warm Clothes to Protect Children from Winter Cold

AAR JAPAN has been continuing emergency relief activities in the earthquake disaster areas of eastern Turkey. From February 6th to 13th, the team distributed boots, jackets, and satchels to around 1,000 children in kindergartens and primary schools of the affected areas.

For the Children to be Dressed Warmly on Their Way to School

February 6th, 2012 – Schoolyard covered in snow (Döşeme Village)

At around 1,700 meters altitude, temperature remains below zero in the snow covered villages of the disaster area even during daytime. While onsite for relief activities, we often saw school children wearing just a jumper or walking through the snow in shoes with the soles coming apart. As compared to urban areas, the villages of this region surely cannot be called wealthy. Families with ten children are not rare, and we have been told that many of the children own only one pair of shoes or wear jackets that have been passed down to them by other children. In many places, school buildings have been damaged by the earthquake, so a lot of children have to commute to nearby villages. This is why AAR JAPAN decided to provide the children with winter boots, jackets, and satchels, to make sure they stay warm on their way to school.

February 8th, 2012 – Each child is asked to try on the boots to make sure they fit. (Kumluca Village)

On February 13th, at the elementary school of Bardakçı Village on the shores of Lake Van, we supplied these “winter kits” to approximately 500 children. When we asked the children their shoe sizes, the older kids answered right away, but some of the younger ones would reply “Hmm, don’t know”. In such a situation, we would pick a pair of boots from the pile of shoe boxes that was likely to fit and ask the child to try it on.
  Many times when the children took off their shoes for trying on the boots, they had wet feet or wore socks with big holes. It made us worry if they had frostbites. The children would receive their new boots with a broad smile and wrap their arms around them to carry them home.

The Children’s Smiles made us Feel Happy

February 10th, 2012 – These two girls looked quite pleased with their new colorful jackets and boots (Ocaklı Village)

When we said “Güzel!” (“That looks nice on you!”) to children who were wearing their new jackets, they would give us a shy smile. Some of them would reply “Thank you” in English, and we even met a few children who bashfully said “Arigato” (“Thank you” in Japanese). Honestly, to check the fit of the boots was not an easy task. But it was a good opportunity for us to get in contact with each child. “Would you like to try a bigger size?” we would ask, or: “How about these ones, do they fit?” In the end, each child got his or her proper size. We hope those warm jackets and boots are making the kids feel happy on their way to school.

* This project has been funded by individual donations, in addition to a grant received from Japan PlatForm.

February 13th, 2012 – AAR JAPAN staff Miyuki KONNAI (left) is handing out boots to girls in Bardakçı Village.

February 8th, 2012 – “Is it my turn soon?” The children are waiting obediently in a row. (Kumluca Village)

February 6th, 2012 – For the jackets, too, the children are asked to try them on to make sure they fit. (Yaylıyaka Village)

February 13th, 2012 – The size of the satchel is just perfect for textbooks. (Bardakçı Village)

February 10th, 2012 – Dressed up in new jackets and shoes, the kids say, “Thank you!” (Ocaklı Village)

Working as a Programme Coordinator at the AAR JAPAN office in Tokyo since October 2011. Back in college, the crucial position of Turkey as a link between East and West had sparked her interest in this country. Later, as a graduate student, studied the accession of Turkey to the European Union, as well as immigration issues. At the time, also conducted a field survey in Turkey and Northern Cyprus. (Born in Fukushima Prefecture)