Togar Rugs Facilitates Aid for Earthquake Victims in Turkey - TribPapers

Togar Rugs Facilitates Aid for Earthquake Victims in Turkey

Temporary housing and shelters for many needy families after the earthquake in Turkey are shown here. Photo courtesy of Togar Rugs.

Asheville – On February 6, 2023, a devastating seismic event rocked southern and central Turkey and parts of north and western Syria, with two powerful earthquakes striking within hours of each other. The initial quake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, occurred at 4:17 am, followed by another, measuring 7.7, at 1:24 pm on the same day. The toll was catastrophic: tens of thousands lost their lives, with a confirmed death toll of 53,537, although disputed by locals. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless as buildings crumbled, and over 15 million people in Turkey felt the quake’s direct impact across a 140,000 square mile zone. The economic toll was staggering, estimated at around $160 billion in damages. In the aftermath, global assistance poured in, providing vital relief to affected communities.

This is not the first massive earthquake event that Turkey has endured. Turkey is situated over multiple fault lines, and Turks are accustomed to the idea that an earthquake can happen at any moment. A similar large earthquake; one that also caused significant loss of life and structural damage, occurred in August of 1999. That year the Togars had a highly successful fundraising for those earthquake victims, raising $150,000. Sadly, thousands of people were rendered homeless and a period of significant hardship and later rebuilding ensued. One of the most unfortunate aspects of the 2023 earthquake was that it seemed to many Turks that the lessons of the 1999 earthquake had gone unheeded. Newer buildings were also among the ones that collapsed and supposedly strict earthquake regulations seemed to have not been enforced as required.

Togar Rugs Facilitates Aid

Togar Rugs, a local business in Asheville, NC, played a crucial role in facilitating aid. Founded in 1978 by Turkish native Tunc Togar and his wife Nancy Pomeroy Togar, the business on Long Shoals Road in Arden, specializes in Turkish carpets and kilims. Upon hearing of the earthquakes, Derin Togar, their daughter, started a GoFundMe account and directed the account here in the United States. Her sister, Deniz, and her father, Tunc, oversaw the relief efforts in Turkey, adding quite a bit of their personal money as well. At that time The Tribune published an article which can be found at:

The Togars mobilized donations; they decided to partner with local aid foundations in Turkey: Biriz Solidarity Association and TUKD, with strong ties to the severely affected province of Hatay. Together, they furnished 22 temporary homes, serving as shelters for widowed women with children, a vulnerable demographic at risk of exploitation and abuse in communal living situations. As Tunc Togar said, “This organization was definitely the right place where we had full control of the spending. Not a penny was wasted.”

These women were selected with the assistance of the local Hatay town council and their situations were initially confirmed by government records and later corroborated with on-site visits. The temporary structures have been furnished comfortably with the acknowledgment that many of these families have lost all of their belongings in the earthquakes and are surviving only on donated food and clothing. To help the local regional economy, the furnishings and items purchased for the homes were sourced from local producers whenever possible. These included ranged from large furniture needs such as couches, beds, and tables, to white goods such as stoves, refrigerators, and AC units; a true necessity as summer temperatures can reach above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Hatay; to smaller indispensable items such as brooms, dustpans, pillows, sheets, and pots and pans—all things that these families lost when their homes collapsed.

One important reason that these widowed mothers were chosen above others has to do with the consequences of being a widow in a conservative area such as Hatay. Following disasters such as the earthquake, widowed women are generally taken into a larger family living situation; in this case often tents, and without the “protection” of their husbands are more susceptible to intimidation, abuse, and exploitation. Their children may also suffer some of these same injustices. A secondary aim of these temporary living structures is that in living independently, the women will be able to partake in local educational opportunities and technical training; and send their children to school, things that may or may not have been possible in communal living spaces. By providing these women, in particular, with safe, personal living spaces and opportunities to pursue education and employment; Togar Rugs, BirIz and TUKD hope to allow these mothers time and space to recover and start to build new lives for themselves and their families.

Assistance Still Needed

Recovery efforts in the earthquake zone remain arduous and emotional, with many families still displaced and unemployment rampant. Ongoing challenges persist. Help is still desperately needed before next winter. If anyone would like to contribute, contact Derin Togar at 828 687-1986 or give funds through the ongoing GoFundMe account: