TURKEY: When Free Handouts Hurt

On my most recent trip to the earthquake zone, I was working alongside people from Turkey and helping to train them on how to build the house kits we were setting up. It made more sense to train people who were already there, than to try to send teams over from other countries.

The exciting thing about this is that there will be follow up for each house that is built; we will have people on the ground who are sharing the love of Jesus with them and will continue to follow up with them, long after their house is completed.

Some of the families receiving houses were also very actively involved in helping to build their own home. As we were building, many others kept coming and asking for a house for their family or friends who were also in need. The hope is that those who have received a house will also be able to go and help build a house for someone else in their neighborhood. We are so excited about the different possibility’s this new approach provides.

One family we were helping began to open up and share their experience. They had a successful business with a butcher shop, bakery and restaurant. A father and his four sons lived in a five-story building with the barn right next to it. The house was badly damaged and will need to be taken down, but all their family survived. The barn however was destroyed, and their 20 head of cattle were lost. According to government regulations no one is allowed back into their homes. It is now illegal for them to enter their house and retrieve any personal items that may have survived the earthquake and would be useful for their immediate survival. Moving companies are the only ones who are permitted entry into homes to retrieve items for people, and these companies are charging such high prices that most cannot afford them. Although some people do sneak back in, if caught they could face stiff penalties.

The family we were helping would like to reopen their bakery, but now that the government is giving out free bread and food to
the people, no one would come to buy their products and it has put them in a difficult situation. They have the tools and equipment they need to reopen their bakery and butcher shop, but without a market, what is the purpose?

On top of that, it will be months, if not years, until the government gets around to removing their condemned house, so if they want to rebuild, they will either need to wait or come up with the money on their own to pay a company to come and remove it for them.

When disaster hits, it always feels like a good idea to get as many free handouts to the area as possible. Although this is true as an immediate response, there comes a time when you need to start pulling back and assist in other ways to let the local economy begin to rebuild itself.

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