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A service for global professionals · Tuesday, May 21, 2024 · 713,467,494 Articles · 3+ Million Readers

A Journey of Compassion: Volunteering in Türkiye with All Hands and Hearts

As someone not accustomed to cold weather, I arrived ill-prepared with a lightweight sleeping bag, pillow, mat, blanket and minimal clothing. However, the generosity of the staff and other volunteers soon overwhelmed me as they offered a blow-up mattress and heavy blankets. Yet, even with these additions, I shivered through my first night, feeling ill-equipped and exhausted after a 25-hour journey.

The hauntingly beautiful Call to Prayer marked the start of each day; the sound enveloped the valleys, carrying the pain of a people in mourning. It contrasted with the myriad of accents belonging to the diverse group of volunteers: electricians, engineers, teachers, students, farmers, nurses, financiers – all emerging from their tents and making their way to the coffee pots, expertly tended by Octav, the athletic Romanian systems engineer.

Scenes at the AHAH base – drying laundry.

DAILY ROUTINE

Our daily routine was a whirlwind of activity. Coffee, ablutions and breakfast were hurried affairs, leading up to the all-important morning meeting. It was during these briefings that the camp’s moving parts were revealed. The previous day’s work sites were discussed, site security concerns addressed, new arrivals welcomed, departures celebrated and base duties assigned.

There’s no changing the world without maintaining a clean camp and ensuring fresh wood chips in the composting toilets. Most importantly, we had the opportunity to choose our volunteer options for the day. It was a mad rush as teams were formed, bags were grabbed and shuttles departed.

Program Director, Nat, delivering the daily meeting

THE POWER OF UNITY

I was in awe and proud to be part of providing over 30,000 meals three times a day to volunteer dedicating their time to meet the needs of those impacted by the devastating earthquake. Our work involved sorting and folding mountains of clothing for distribution, preparing food and constructing tents and shelters for the vast number of internally displaced families and individuals residing in tent camps (known as internally displaced persons (IDP) camps). The days were long and often heartbreaking, but it was the shy smiles and heartfelt gratitude from the local Turkish community that kept us going. There were also moments of shared laughter as we attempted to speak the local language, counting to ten and packing thousands of Ramadan breakfast packs.

AHAH volunteers organizing items for distribution

What struck me the most was the incredible power of people coming together for a common purpose. All Hands and Hearts, with its ability to attract and mobilize a diverse group of volunteers from all corners of the globe, is a testament to the strength of humanity’s spirit. It’s that sweet spot where AHAH’s commitment to building trust with local communities aligns with the dedication of volunteers, both on-site and behind the scenes, working tirelessly to make a difference.

In the words you’ll often hear at AHAH, “We arrive early and stay late.” It’s a commitment to the communities we serve, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a reminder that when we come together, we can create real and lasting change.

My journey with All Hands and Hearts in Türkiye was a profound and life-changing experience. It reminded me that in the face of adversity, compassion and unity can rebuild what was lost.

I hope my story inspires you to find your own way to make a difference, whether it’s close to home or on the other side of the world. Together, we can create a brighter future for all.

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