A Co. Armagh mum says she is “so proud” of her kids and husband, who are doing their bit to help out in the aftermath of the earthquakes which have so far claimed over 30,000 lives.
Jessica Stinson, who lives in Portadown, is the mother of Yankim, Valentina and Rocco. Her husband Hakan is Turkish, hailing from Iskenderun, one of the hardest hit cities in the country.
Hakan is currently back in his home city doing what he can to provide aid and assistance to those affected by the quakes.
Meanwhile, in County Armagh, Jessica’s kids are chipping in to help organise donations of supplies to be sent out to Turkey, with nine pallets full ready to be taken to the Turkish Embassy in Dublin on Wednesday.
With Hakan’s Turkish roots, and the fact that 11-year-old Yankim was born in Turkey, news of the tragedy resonated deeply in the family, with Jessica saying that their first thought was of what they could do to help.
Jessica said: “Initially when we first heard about it, there had only been one earthquake, and we thought; ‘oh my goodness this is bad’. Then we heard about the second one and just got the feeling of sickness and the fear of wondering if everybody we knew was ok.
“Seeing all the pictures has just made us so emotional.”
Jessica says that she “couldn’t sleep” the night of the news as she couldn’t wait to start planning and organising her response the next day.
She explained: “I wanted to be able to help in some way, so I thought that I would get a few things together from some of the people that I know and I was going to take my car down to the Turkish embassy in Dublin.
“I spoke with one of my husband’s Turkish friends here in Portadown who works for JMC Packaging and they have very kindly offered us a lorry to go on Wednesday. They also have provided us with a section of the warehouse to store and package things.”
On Friday night, Hakan arrived in Iskenderun and, according to Jessica, says it is a “living nightmare” on the ground.
She said: “From speaking to my husband, they have no running water and what little running water is dirty because the pipes are broken. Many people who have lost their homes have no clothing, so they’re sleeping cold in the street.
“The electricity is coming and going and they’re running out of places to buy food because a lot of the shops have been damaged or they’re not opening and they’ve been looted and all sorts of things.”
Hakan is collecting cash donations from Northern Ireland and buying items such as heating elements, generators, food and water to supply to people in his neighbourhood and beyond.
The kids have also played a vital role in helping with the work and Jessica says the entire family is “incredibly proud” with their drive and initiative.
She says that her son Yankim, a pupil at Armagh Royal School, has been collecting donations from school and was helping to package and sort through the donations.
Four-year-old Valentina has been helping out too and taping up boxes to be sent off.
Jessica said: “I think it’s really good for them at a young age to look at what’s going on in the world and know that they have played a small part in helping people.”
The campaign so far has brought in donations from all across the ABC Council area, with some coming in from as far away as Belfast and the North-West.
Jessica says that the local response has been “brilliant” and that despite the current cost-of-living crisis, she is “overwhelmed” by the generosity shown by the community.
“People in Turkey can’t survive at the moment without our support, and seeing the people that I have grown up with here helping with that…..I couldn’t ask for more. It’s a much greater response than what I had expected.”
The plan is that more supplies will be delivered in the coming days, with Jessica hoping that a second lorry can be organised to go at the end of the month.
She says that anyone can reach out to help, with drop-off locations for new clothing available at; Just Because Shoes Banbridge, Magic Turkish Barbers Portadown and Dromore Turkish Barbers.
She also asks that anyone who would like to donate transport or storage to get in touch.
“We might not all have a connection to Turkey or to the area, but we all have a connection to humanity. We all have feelings and at the end of the day we are all people and together we’re stronger,” she added.
You can donate to Jessica’s GoFundMe page here.
Read more: Armagh group set up to take donations following Turkey and Syria earthquakes.
Co Armagh man and his dog deploying to Turkey to help locate earthquake survivors.