As the world has continued to be ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the citizens of Turkey recently faced the added calamity of the worst wildfires the nation has experienced in years.
Hundreds of wildfires broke out across 30 Turkish provinces in the last week of July amidst the brutal heatwave that followed months of scorching dry weather. The fires continued to blaze on as shifting winds fanned the flames and caused them to spread quickly along the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea coasts. For ten days, firefighters battled the inferno that destroyed a vast breadth of the woodlands across Turkey, including the southern province of Antalya.
Aided by water bomber planes, helicopters and drones working around the clock, Turkish authorities thankfully managed to contain most of the fires within a fortnight. However, the resort areas around the Manavgat district within Antalya were the most affected with nine lives lost and several villages evacuated. Many were forced to abandon their homes and were sent to disaster centres to keep them safe from the raging fires.
In the midst of the wildfires that were devastating the region at the time, the staff of Dogan Hotel – a Home Resort in Antalya set up under Q Lifestyle, the travel and leisure arm of the QI Group – could not stand to do nothing. Entrenched in the company’s philosophy of altruism that regularly encourages staff to get involved in social responsibility initiatives, the hotel employees banded together to lend support to their compatriots affected by the fires.
Dogan Hotel Staff launched into action amidst the disaster.
“As the great Turkish thinker Yunus Emre said, ‘We love the created, because of the creator’. We have been brought up with the teachings that hurting even an ant is a sin, and so it was unthinkable for us to remain indifferent to such a great disaster,” said Uğur Abali, a representative of the project and the food & beverage manager of the hotel.
The hotel employees were determined to provide aid to those whose lives had been upended by the fires that erupted in their backyard. The team at Dogan Hotel brainstormed the measures they could take amongst themselves to gather resources before sharing their ideas with their general manger and immediately mobilising their efforts.
“We didn’t have much time to plan, but everyone was very responsive. We contacted the disaster relief centre in our area to find out the list of urgent needs that we could meet, and we saw that we could start with providing bedding needs like pillows, quilts and sheets,” said Uğur Abali.
The staff also took to social media to spread the word about their endeavours and established the hotel as a collection centre for donations which the team would personally deliver to the disaster centre catering to families of those from most affected by the fires. They broadcasted their efforts on social media which led to friends and family coming forward to contribute donations and funds to purchase the needful.
All the donations that were collected at the Dogan hotel to be donated.
As the staff rallied to accumulate the necessary resources, holidaying hotel guests observing their preparations felt compelled to contribute too. However, the hotel staff could not accept cash donations from the guests. Instead, they shared the list of items that were required so that guests who wanted to contribute could make the purchases themselves and add their contributions to the collection of resources that would be transported to the disaster relief centre by the team.
“The fires were mostly outside the city and thankfully our guests were not affected by the fires, but you could see the melancholy in their eyes, and they wanted to help,” said Uğur Abali.
With the support of friends, family and even the hotel guests, the staff of Dogan Hotel managed to quickly amass a substantial list of items urgently needed by those displaced from their homes due to the wildfires. In addition to bedding, the relief provided by the staff initiative included other essential needs such as sanitary pads, towels, baby diapers, personal care toiletries like toothpaste & toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, and brand-new undergarments. The list also included 60kg of pet food for the dogs and cats who were living on the street and in harm’s way.
Donations even included pet food for animals affected by the calamity.
These items were then transported to the disaster relief centres to be distributed to those in need. When they arrived at the relief centres, the staff learned that there were additional needs required including battery powered searchlights and undergarments, to which they immediately launched into action in order to meet those needs.
“We are happy that we were able to pull everything together within 12 hours, from when we decided to embark on the initiative to the moment we completed the whole operation. We are so proud of our team and thankful for the family, friends and guests who chipped in to support those who were essentially homeless during that time, even the animals,” said Uğur Abali.
As the wildfires have died down leaving the Turkish communities to deal with the aftermath, the nation now plans to replenish the burned areas with new forests. According to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Bekir Pakdemirli, field studies will be conducted in the scorched areas before the preparation of the ground. The ministry plans to sow around 252 million saplings to ensure the affected locations will be evergreen once again within the next 5 years.