The family of UT employee Ömer has been sleeping in cars for days

| Stan Waning

The majority of Ömer Akdogan’s family resides in the earthquake zone in Turkey. The team leader at LISA is happy that none of them were injured, but nevertheless, he is worried. ‘I try to watch as little news as possible’. Instead, he raised money last week in collaboration with TSA Twente.

Ömer Akdogan (third on the left) during the fundraising campaign.

Akdogan is a native from Almelo, but his parents are both from Gaziantep. The city in south-east Turkey was hit hard by the earthquakes last week. How many family members live in and around the city? He doesn't even know exactly. ‘Dozens, probably more. Uncles, aunts, cousins. These are families of both my parents, both of which are big families,’ says the UT employee.

Cellular network

His cousin, who lives in Germany, called Akdogan awake last Monday when disaster struck in Turkey and Syria. 'We tried to contact our family right away, but it was not easy. In many places, the cellular network experienced an outage. Via Whatsapp, we have now been in touch with almost everyone. Fortunately, no one was injured, but that doesn't ease the pain. Words cannot describe what happened.’

Although Akdogan's family was not injured directly, his concerns run deep. No one can return home as streets and even entire neighbourhoods have been closed due to the possibility of secondary collapses. ‘They have been sleeping in cars and parks for days, while it is cold in the area. My cousin has two mentally challenged children. That situation was untenable, so she fled to relatives in another part of Turkey.' Akdogan was also able to contact family members by phone last weekend. ‘That was when the emotions came loose. With tremors in your voice, you talk to each other about what happened. That really affects you.’

Raising funds

After those conversations, the IT specialist decided that he had to do something. He tried to avoid the news as much as possible in order to stay positive. Instead, he asked the UT what could be done to raise funds. Together with TSA Twente, he raised almost 14,000 euros in the past few days. ‘That had a positive impact on me. I've been doing better since Monday. Besides the nice amount of money, we got a lot of mental support. We could talk about our culture and the fellowship among ourselves was pleasant. My wife helped make Turkish food, my son helped fill trucks with relief goods in Almelo for days and my daughter sold muffins at school. That's how we all try to contribute something.’

Akdogan is happy with the support he gets at the workplace. ‘Colleagues offer a lot of support. They sympathise with me and are eager to do something.’ Despite that support, Akdogan would have liked more help from the organisation. ‘I'm not trying to talk down anyone or anything, but it would have been appreciated if someone from the board or from the organisation had shown their face at the stalls. I don't know at all how these things works, but instinctively I would say that the UT was doing a lot more when the war in Ukraine started. Nevertheless, we are very grateful that we were allowed to use the stalls.'

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