The FINANCIAL -- In October 2011 an earthquake
measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale hit the Van region in
As Allianz reported, one of the villages that was affected the most was Mollakasim, where not only many houses collapsed, but also the medical center and the school. Allianz Turkey teamed up with Allianz Global Assistance Turkey and Allianz SE to lend a hand.
After almost one year of planning and construction work, the school, the medical center and a building offering accommodation for teachers and nurses were completed. Allianz4Good was involved in the project from the very beginning. Katja Oristanio, Corporate Citizenship manager, traveled toTurkey to attend the opening ceremony. Here is what she experienced.
No view for tourists -- When I step out of the Airport in Van, I only have a moment to notice a mountain landscape that would normally be a tourist destiny. What really gets my attention is the infrastructure which is still pretty battered by the earthquake’s impact. The Airport itself is practically a construction site. This impression continues on the bus to Mollakasim, a small village near the city ofVan that was particularly hard-hit by the earthquake last October. Right after the earthquake, the Turkish government authorities joined forces with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Turkish Red Crescent and provided 2,000 container houses for the most affected people.
These containers and tents are still the temporary homes to many. They lost everything. What remains of their original houses is still visible next to the shelters. Rubble piles high, rebuilding did not yet take place. Unlike in Van city where reconstruction is proceeding smoothly, it looks like the earthquake happened just yesterday in the remote rural areas. No one can really tell how long it will take before the residents can move back into new, permanent homes or when the roads will be ready to use again.
A cornerstone -- But in Mollakasim at least, first steps have been made by rebuilding the school and the clinic. So far, I had only known the buildings as project descriptions and budget plans. And now here they are.
The school is equipped with two classrooms and enough materials for every child. New computers have already been promised. And the building has a second important purpose. Built according to disaster protection standards, it can serve as a secure shelter for the residents in times of other catastrophes.
“Building a school, a health clinic and accommodations for teachers and nurses, we will meet the educational needs of Mollakasim's children and societal needs at large. This is not only good, but also useful and sustainable”, says Alexander Ankel, CEO of Allianz Turkey. The playground in the back of the school was privately funded by Ankel himself. He was unwilling to accept that there was enough money for school materials but not for recess.
This hands-on mentality was common among the people involved in the project. Ahmet Turul, former CFO of Allianz Turkey and now member of the company's supervisory board, spent his entire vacation in Van, working to make sure that the school could be completed in good time and to a high standard. A native of the Van region himself, he looks at the finished school with pride.
Everyone in Mollakasim attends the opening ceremony. Future students explore their new school. “I’m really happy about our new school”, says one, not something a child usually says, but believable in this case. A teacher agrees: “We wish that the effects of the earthquake are erased from the minds of our children and they live with happiness and joy.”
It will take the region a long time to heal completely, but this is an important cornerstone for rebuilding the community. It makes me optimistic about the future.