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Painful closure


It was time to handover the Duzce outreach project to the local community. It was 18 months after the earthquake and time for the community to take responsibility for their well-being. It wasn't a relief work situation anymore. People were now settled in their container homes and was waiting for the government to provide more permanent housing. The government was realizing this and approached World Relief to provide private kitchen and bathroom facilities for 400 container homes in Duzce. This would bring much needed relief to the families who were still dependent on public facilities.


World Relief is an American based Relief and Development organization who did a lot of work in the Istanbul area after the 18th August 1999 earthquake. The Director of World Relief in Turkey was a Zimbabwean-borne South African and we met a number of times in different church conferences. He knew that my commitment to the Duzce projects were coming to and end and he approached me to become a World Relief volunteer overseeing the Kitchen and Bathroom project in Duzce. After prayerful consideration I was released from my role as project manager for the Ankara Protestant Churches and I started to work as a World Relief project manager in Duzce.

I was introduced to a six foot five inches tall Lebanese borne Turkish citizen who became my translator and negotiator. He is also a good friend to this day. It was always a pleasure listening to him as he explained the need of the people and the responsibility of the local authority to take care of the people. He knew how to "keep the crown on their heads" while World Relief addressed the need.


We always wanted to return to South Africa in the summer (July -August) of 2011 for a period of rest and deputation work. The World Relief project was very focused and moved fast. The addition of a small kitchen and bathroom made a big difference to the quality of living in the container neighborhood. As the project was drawing to a close World Relief offered us the opportunity to continue working with them, as they were still actively involved with work in the Derince area outside Istanbul. This seemed like a good option. There was no opportunities left in Ankara, but this would imply a move to Istanbul.


We bought tickets to fly back to South Africa for 6 weeks. 8 weeks before the planned flight Magda fell ill. She had severe pain and discomfort in her stomach. She went to the local clinic and although my Turkish was not bad I had no vocabulary to explain her symptoms to the doctor on duty. In the end he gave her a course of antibiotics. This helped, but within a month the pain was back and even worse. This time she insisted to see an English-speaking doctor. The only one we knew was dr. Arseven whom I worked with almost 2 years before. Due to the failure of the Carewell project we did not keep contact and I had to swallow my pride and make an appointment for Magda. He was very gracious and after a thorough investigation referred us to a surgeon. The surgeon diagnosed Magda with acute gal bladder infection that would require the removal of the gal bladder. He concluded that he will treat the symptoms and will only operate after she had lost some weight!


We discussed the situation with our home-base in South Africa and decided that Magda and the children should take an earlier flight to South Africa to have Magda treated there. We managed to get a flight 2 weeks before the original date. Magda was getting worse and her eyes were turning yellow because their was an obstruction in the tube between the gal bladder and her liver. She barely made it onto the flight. It was a flight via Spain with Iberia Airways and during the lay-over she nearly fainted but she knew she had to keep her pose and take care of the children. What happened next is a story for another time.....


Theunis stayed in Ankara to complete the project in Duzce and to take care of all the logistical arrangements during our six week absence. We were quite certain that we will not return to Ankara after the break.


This was the end of our second term in Turkey!

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