The Life After Disaster initiative began with an article published by its founder, Mesut Bilgili, one week after a disaster. The following article summarizes the organization's roots and aim:
One of my earliest memories is of the time I spent at my grandparents' summer house. I recall going to the swimming pool in the morning and the smell of chlorine. My mother would put sunscreen on me, and kids would jump into the water. The weather was hot, and the sun was scorching, so we would be forced to go back to my grandparents' house for a noon nap. In the evenings, my parents would take us to a nearby hotel where kids would run around while families dined. I was one of those kids, and no matter when we visited, familiar faces would fill the terrace. I remember the sea, the breeze, my mother asking for a throw, and the sound of the waves mixed with the chatter. It was a joyful time, and the world felt safe.
I visited that hotel many more summers. Its owner was a childhood friend of my father. Even though I was born in a different city, far from my parents' hometown, the early summers I spent there helped me connect with their roots. At the age of fifteen, I designed the hotel's website. At the age of seventeen, I kissed an Italian girl on its beach. Life was exciting. We leave a place, but we carry its memories, as if they exist within us, independent of time and space. Some things are forgotten, some details change, but the essence remains.
However, while the places remain unchanged in our memories, they evolve, transform, and sometimes crumble in reality. As we go about our daily lives, assuming everything will stay the same, there is an element of surprise and uncertainty in life. Sometimes it takes the form of an accident, an untimely death of a relative, bad news, or bad luck. At other times, it is a pandemic, a disaster, or an unexpected global event.
On Monday morning, the cities were still dark, and people were asleep. As the bird flocks circled overhead, more than five thousand buildings crumbled in less than sixty seconds. The hotel of my childhood memories was one of many, and some of those familiar faces were among the tens of thousands trapped under the rubble. The sea was still there, and the waves still made a sound, but the joy and safety had disappeared. Now, there was no breeze but only despair in the air.
Nature doesn't care about borders. The Turkey-Syria earthquake devastated people in multiple countries, affecting a dozen more. Lives were lost, possessions gone. Winter had arrived, and countless people were left without shelter and electricity. Finding clean water became a problem, and the simple necessities of daily life became a struggle. What was lost must be rebuilt, and the hope, no matter how dim it may seem now, must be rekindled. As humans, resilience is our superpower, and we always find a way to start over. We don't do it alone; solidarity is another superpower we possess.
Today, I watch the snow fall. My heart is broken, not only because I am a distant observer of a tragedy but also because my parents' hometown was the epicenter of the earthquake. It is difficult to accept reality when it clashes with our memories. I have received phone calls and messages from friends around the world who ask how they can help. Everyone wants to do something, but they don't know how.
I don't have all the answers either, but we can all do what we do best. Over the past three days, my team and I have been working on a project called "Life After Disaster" (LAD). Our goal is to help create solidarity by bringing together people with different expertise to serve disaster-hit areas. Humans have more than two superpowers; there is also compassion, kindness, and integrity. By coming together on a common cause, we can harness these superpowers for the benefit of those affected by disaster. The Life After Disaster project, or LAD, is designed to do just that. Our goal is to bring together individuals with different expertise to help make life easier for those affected by disaster.
Please note that LAD is not meant to be a rescue effort. It is important to continue supporting local and global relief organizations and, if you are close to the disaster area, to do everything you can to physically help people. The aim of the Life After Disaster project is to help the affected people return to their daily lives with ease. Through a series of fieldwork and events, we aim to apply global knowledge for the benefit of local communities.
As I write this, I have received good news. A 84-year-old lady was rescued from the debris of the hotel four days after the earthquake and is in good condition. It's difficult to feel joyful at a time like this, but there is always hope.