As we pause to mark the solemn anniversary of the earthquakes that shook Türkiye and Syria on February 6, 2023, our hearts still ache from the impact of the devastation that impacted more than 15 million people and claimed over 57,000 lives. Among those directly affected were 1,400 small business owners and their employees who are woven into the fabric of Building Markets Türkiye’s extensive network. In the aftermath, these businesses faced not only structural damage, but the daunting challenge of rebuilding shattered dreams.
In response to the tragedy, our team, deeply connected to the communities we serve, recognized the urgent need for relief and the vital role of SMEs as first responders and agents of reconstruction. I, along with our team, promptly visited Hatay, Gaziantep, Adana, Mersin, and Şanlıurfa, engaging with earthquake survivors, local municipalities, chambers, and our network of business owners and employees to assess the situation thoroughly. This on-the-ground assessment became the cornerstone for our immediate and targeted response to identified needs.
What have we accomplished?
Outlining Specific Ways NGOs and Donors Can Provide Assistance: Building Markets undertook a Rapid Needs Assessment, engaging in 862 interviews with small business owners to identify ongoing urgent needs. The full report provides insights into their challenges and outlines ways NGOs and donors can offer assistance.
Food Relief: In response to the earthquakes, Building Markets set up a mobile kitchen in Hatay, serving over 142,000 hot meals to survivors. Partnering with organizations like World Central Kitchen and the International Restaurant Association, we provided immediate relief. Additionally, through the Emergency Relief Fund, we delivered 7,500 iftar meals to earthquake victims who resettled during the holy month of Ramadan.
Life Changing Cash Assistance: In collaboration with GiveDirectly, Building Markets helped facilitate cash transfers of ₺9,000 Turkish lira to over 1,000 families, allowing them to meet critical needs, like keeping their businesses afloat, rebuilding homes, or relocating to safer areas. Simultaneously, through a partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we ran a 3-day business continuity bootcamp with over 100 small business owners, helping them restructure their business plans in the wake of the earthquake. We also provided cash grants of $6,000 to 30 businesses, which allowed the majority of those businesses to return to pre-earthquake staffing levels and grow their revenue.
Co-working Space: To help entrepreneurs who lost their office spaces get back to rebuilding, the Building Markets Gaziantep office has been transformed into a co-working space for small businesses in our network. This innovative solution will allow small businesses to remain operational despite damages, and to continue contributing to the local economy at a crucial point in their economic recovery.
Local Collaborations and Community Empowerment: Collaborating with local entities, Building Markets provided assistance in distributing clothes and organizing events in the affected area, with a focus on prioritizing women-led businesses to foster community resilience. Through collaboration with local NGOs, we verified the addition of 365 new refugee and local-owned businesses to our network since February 6. This joint effort not only expands our network but also strengthens the foundation for sustainable economic recovery in the aftermath of the earthquakes.
Preserving jobs, preventing closures, and sustaining economic stability in the earthquake-affected regions has truly been a collaborative effort, with small businesses as the heroes of the story. As we reflect on our progress toward rebuilding what was lost one year ago, we are proud to be part of supporting these resilient leaders, and our commitment to individuals, households, and communities in the affected region remains steadfast.
But the work is not done and the needs are still great. For example, currently more than 1,000 businesses in our network are still looking for capital to rebuild or grow after the earthquake. Individuals can continue to help by giving directly to Building Markets Crisis Relief and Recovery Fund and organizations can contact us to partner together to deliver live-changing programs. I hope you will stand with us as we continue to walk alongside small business leaders, lighting a path of hope for the future.