Japanese NGO helps Turkish children heal

Over 56,000 people were killed and many more were rendered homeless when a devastating earthquake struck Turkey and Syria in February. A Japanese non-governmental organization is using the experience it gained after the 1995 Kobe temblor to help Turkish children overcome their trauma and start new lives.

About 6,000 quake survivors live in a new temporary housing facility in Adiyaman, southern Turkey. But it's more than just a home. The Center for Children and Families, which opened last month, also offers art therapy and counseling to help children overcome their trauma.

The center was built by a local NGO with the support of Citizens towards Overseas Disaster Emergency (CODE), a Kobe-based NGO that provides disaster relief.

A child plays at the Center for Children and Families.

The head of CODE, Yoshitsubaki Masamichi, has been traveling to Turkey since the quake struck and helped launch the facility.

Yoshitsubaki recently returned to the center for the first time since it opened.
Mothers there told him that many children show signs of trauma, including bed-wetting, crying at night and being frightened by noises.

Yoshitsubaki speaks with mothers at the Center for Children and Families.

Yoshitsubaki brought letters of encouragement written by children in Kobe. The city in western Japan experienced its own devastating earthquake in 1995, which left over 6,000 people dead. Yoshitsubaki's experience in the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake inspired him to become involved in disaster relief.

Letters of encouragement written by children in Kobe.

Yoshitsubaki believes shared experiences can help people heal. "There are some things that people from Kobe can express because we shared the same pain, and we lived through the same kind of disaster. That's something I am hoping to convey as we work together," he says.

Yoshitsubaki plays guitar to cheer up children in Kobe following the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake.

Yoshitsubaki plans to continue visiting Turkey, and hopes to hold disaster-prevention courses as more housing facilities open in coming months.