First Wood House Completed in Private Earthquake Relief Effort

in Ercis, Turkey

December 2, 2011, by Amy L. Beam, Mount Ararat Trek

Construction of the first 8-room wood house for homeless earthquake survivors is now finished in Ercis, eastern Turkey. Seven families (40 people) are living one per room. The eighth room is being reserved to house emergency cases during the winter. . .most likely people still living in tents and dying from exposure. The house has electricity, heat, a toilet and shower. It cost approximately $12,000 USD, half of which came in cash donations and the other half in donated materials and labor.

This privately organized emergency relief project to build wood houses was initiated after 6,000 buildings were destroyed in Ercis and Van, Turkey, from the October 23 and November 9, 2011 earthquakes leaving approximately 900,000 people homeless. Both cities are now empty. An estimated 800,000 survivors dispersed throughout Turkey to friends and relatives, but about 100,000 people remain in tents with no financial means or place to relocate.

When Marilyn Evelyn in Ankara contacted her friend, Mehmet Bozbay, asking for his help in donating the $3000 USD she had collected among friends and colleagues, Mehmet went into action and contacted Koksal Halep Oğlu who is the man who actually organized and constructed the wood house. Mr. Oğlu’s phone is (009) 0532 341 4250. He speaks some English if you want to speak to him. Mehmet Bozbay, along with his brothers and father, own Asur Hotel in Van, Turkey, where many visitors who climb Mount Ararat overnight in Van. The Bozbay family is widely known and respected throughout eastern Turkey. They have now relocated to Ankara and Antalya until spring when repairs will begin on their hotel (covered by insurance).

The mayor of Rize, Turkey, on the Black Sea donated the water tanks for the house and was helpful in many ways. Businesses in Dogubayazit donated some building materials, heaters, beds, and carpets. We spent several weeks trying to get the local government to establish a bank account for donations, but were told they would first have to get approval from government officials in Ankara. Time was ticking; winter has arrived. Finally, we could wait no longer, so we gave up on government assistance in opening a special bank account.

Mehmet Bozbay had the idea that by building one house as a model, others would be encouraged to join into their own small self-help groups and build more houses. Indeed, this is what is happening. Many people who watched the rapid building of the first wood house in Ercis asked how they could get the materials to do the same thing and what it would cost. An idea is a powerful tool, and when it is turned into reality people get excited and motivated. Despair turns to hope. The impossible becomes reality. The jaded become inspired to donate.

Other private efforts are underway. A group of 100 businessmen in Istanbul, all from Dogubayazit, have purchased approximately 70 containers and are building a container village in Ercis with the name of "New Dogubayazit". But it will take many such private efforts to provide enough housing for homeless earthquake survivors to get through the winter.

In the Kurdish culture, when a friend asks for help it is shameful not to help. One simply cannot say no. In the Kurdish culture, if someone is poor and has only one loaf of bread, if their friend is hungry, he will share his last loaf of bread. That is how people survive in a country with no “safety nets”. My friend Mehmet has asked me for help and now I ask you. Please give something, no matter how small. Small donations add up.

Mehmet wants to build a 12-room wood house in Van to be completed by the end of the year. The house will sleep 80-110 people displaced by the earthquakes. The estimated cost is a mere $13,000 to $15,000 USD. Some of this will come in the form of donated materials and services, but we cannot expect the same amount of such donations as for the first house. We now have raised $2000 for the second house, among just a handful of people. All money goes directly to building the house. There are no administrative fees withheld. Mehmet Bozbay will provide receipts, photos, and thank you letters when the next house is completed. I know most people are cautious and jaded about donations, but please will you help with at least LUNCH MONEY? If 220 people donate $50 each, we will get this house built by the end of the month.

Your help really will make a difference. The UN relief fund for Haiti spends $110 per day per person for housing earthquake victims. Do you realize that with this small private effort in Van, Turkey, every $150 will provide a wood house shelter for one person to get through the entire winter? That is an amazing investment. Please help and ask one friend to help so we can raise the funds within the next two weeks and save people from dying this winter.

Instead of forwarding a joke or youtube video today, please forward this link to a few friends with your personal appeal. We will post more photos as they are available. With disrupted internet and mail services, there is a delay in getting the photos of the finished house.

How To Donate

(scroll to bottom of page or click donate)

We are not an NGO. This is a private relief effort among a group of friends. We know that a little money goes a long way when it goes directly to the people in need.

There are four ways to donate):
  • PayPal (you do not need a PayPal account)
  • bank transfer
  • mail a check
  • send money using Western Union

6,000 buildings were destroyed, leaving 900,000 homeless in Van and Ercis.

This 8-room house was constructed in Ercis, Turkey, in one week.

Electical supplies, heaters, beds, and carpets were donated.

The mayor of Rize, Turkey, donated water tanks for the toilet and shower.

The house was completed Nov. 2011, only one month after the earthquake.

Seven families are now living in this finished house in Ercis, Turkey, thanks to a group of friends who did not wait for government help or foreign aid. They had a small idea and asked their friends to contribute. Despair is turning into hope and inspiring others. Your small donation will make a difference.

Donate to Wood Houses for Homeless Earthquake Survivors

Ercis and Van, Eastern Turkey

October 28, 2011, by Amy L. Beam, Mount Ararat Trek

We ask all our friends to help us help the earthquake surviviors make it through the winter. Mehmet Bozboy, co-owner of Azur Hotel in Van, Turkey, and close friend of Mount Ararat Trek and Murat Camping in Dogubeyazit, Turkey, is not waiting for government help. He has organized a project to build a wood house in Ercis, Turkey, to help 80 survivors make it through the bitterly cold winter. One hundred percent of all donations will go toward building the wood house(s) in Ercis and Van with no deductions for administative overhead.

If you climbed Mount Ararat with us before, you already put your trust in us when you sent money via PayPal or a bank transfer. Please trust us again and help with $10 or $100 or more. The Kurdish people cannot survive the winter without immediate help from the international community. It is already cold and snowing in southeastern Turkey. How to donate is at the bottom of this page.

When the 7.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed Ercis, with a population of 77,000 on the north end of Lake Van in southeastern Turkey, the Governor of Dogubayazit in the province of Agri contacted Murat Şahin, owner of Murat Camping Restaurant and Hotel in Dogubeyazit, Turkey, to organize a rescue team. Murat and Sayim Şahin are business partners with Mount Ararat Trek. Murat raced to Ercis with 8 others, including Apo, the cook for our Mount Ararat treks. They took a large generator used in the summer at camp 2 on Mount Ararat. Within 24 hours many other small rescue teams followed their initiative and began arriving. Murat and over 2,000 others worked day and night, first rescuing survivors, then distributing tents. Murat Şahin retrieved 13 survivors from the rubble and many more bodies of those who died. More than 600 people died in the quake and over 4100 were hospitalized. Van city also suffered deaths and damage to buildings.

On November 9, 2011, a second earthquake of 5.7 magnitude struck Van, Turkey, resulting in over 40 additional deaths and buildings collapsing, including Hotel Bayram which was housing rescue workers and journalists. Many inside were trapped or killed. Now an estimated 80 to 90% of all buildings in Van are structurally damaged and will have to be repaired or demolished. Van, with a poplulation of 1.2 million people, is now empty.

On November 11, when I spoke to Murat on the phone, he had just come home to get some sleep and return to Van in the morning. He told me, "Now you cannot find 1,000 people in the city of Van. It is not safe to go inside a building. Van is having 50 to 60 tremors of 2.5 to 3.5 magnitude every day. People are sleeping outdoors or in their cars. It is snowing now and very cold."

Tragically, both Ercis and Van are no longer habitable. Although the government of Turkey is working hard at the relief efforts, the magnitude of the death and destruction is so huge that people cannot wait for government or NGOs to come to their aid. They must organize themselves and reach out directly to their friends which is why I have posted this webpage to provide information on how you, too, can help in a very direct way.

My friend, Mehmet Bozboy, of Van, Turkey, is part owner, with 3 brothers, of Azur Hotel in Van. Azur Hotel is where we put our trekking customers when they take a tour of Van and Lake Van. Azur Hotel is now closed along with all other businesses in Van. Mehmet took his extended family, including his parents, children, sisters and their familes, to Ankara where they will rent a house. They realize they must figure out a way to start life over.

In spite of Memet's personal shock and loss, he and a few friends have organized an initiative to build a wood house for survivors in Ercis. He had already started this emergency project before the second earthquake hit Van on Nov. 9. Construction will cost $8000 US. The house will have 8 rooms and will be able to house about 70-80 people for the winter. They have donated their own money to cover the construction cost. They are buying the wood from the neighboring country of Georgia where it is less expensive. A team of carpenters from Trabzon, skilled in building wooden houses on the Black Sea, are building the house. Different store owners in Dogubeyazit and elsewhere are donating the tools, electrical supplies and electricians, stove, and rugs for the floors.

Mehmet Bozboy was selling kilims and Persian carpets to our climbing customers at Murat Camping in the summer of 2011 while I was sending them to the summit of Mount Ararat. So, I know Mehmet well and am impressed with his honesty, integrity, leadership, and concern for helping others.

Mehmet told me on the phone today, "By next week, people will be living inside this wood house. We just need to find another $1000 dollars. People cannot make it through the winter living in a tent. We hope to build this house as a model house for others to use as an example. If we can raise another $8000, we will build a similar house in Van, too."

Please make a donation using one of the methods below. If you donate, please email me, Amy Beam, with your donation amount, so I can maintain the accounting. Be assured all donations will go toward the intended purpose of building the wood house(s) for earthquake survivors. The more money we can raise, the more wood houses they will build. Mehmet Bozboy will provide photos which I will post on this web page as soon as the first house is completed. Mehmet has also been promised TV news coverage when the first house is built, as a model for others to follow.Please share this link with your friends, local media, and on TWITTER or FACEBOOK:

We have been patiently waiting for the local Ercis government to establish a bank account for donations, but they must go through buraucracy with Ankara approval. Meanwhile, winter has arrived and we can wait no longer. We ask for your trust and support in this private relief effort among a few friends.

As our friend, will you join us? Contact information is below if you wish to assist in any other way.

Model of 8-room wood house being built for Ercis quake survivors

Murat Şahin lifts child from rubble in Ercis, October 24, 2011

Ercis, Turkey, 6,000 buildings fell down

Ercis is no longer habitable.

Bayram Hotel in Van, Turkey, collapsed in Nov. 9 quake

Murat Sahin, Van search and rescue team working around the clock

600,000 homeless survivors need shelter to make it through the winter.



You may donate money online with PayPal (US dollars only), by bank transfer, or mail.


Click on the PayPal button to go to Amy Beam's payment page. I have not set up an NGO for tax deductible donations. Put "Turkey earthquake donation" in the description field. We will both receive an automatic notification of your donation. I will transfer all funds to Mehmet Bozboy in Turkey to be used for the Wood House for Homeless earthquake relief project. If you donate in one of the other ways below, please send an email to me so I can keep an account of all donations.

Amy Beam
US: 1 240 696 1905


Fahvzi Bozboy, co-owner Azur Hotel, Van, Turkey
Amy Beam, Mount Ararat Trek, Dogubeyazit, Turkey
Murat Şahin, Murat Camping, Dogubeyazit, Turkey
koyunpazarı sokakno 77
Ankara, TURKEY
mobile: 0090 535 739 0138

Send money to any Western Union office in Ankara, Turkey, for Mehmet Bozbay, mobile: 0090 535 739 0138. Western Union will give you a PIN number. Email this PIN number to Mr. Bozbay can go into any Western Union office in Ankara and collect your donation with the PIN number and his ID.


Mehmet Bozboy, co-owner Azur Hotel, Van, Turkey
Wood House for Homeless Project Leader


The government is waiving duty on goods sent for the Van/Ercis earthquake survivors. In order to avoid duty, your packages and documentation MUST clearly state "Van/Ercis Earthquake Donation".

You may send donations by the post office or any courrier service to Murat Şahin. He organizes the climbing groups for Mount Ararat summits. I trust my life with Murat, and you can trust him to distribute your donations to needy homeless earthquake survivors.

Murat Şahin
Murat Camping
Dogubeyazit, Agri
Turkey 04400
mobile: 0090 542 437 3699

Murat Şahin, search and rescue team, Van, Turkey, Nov 10, 2011
Please share this link with a friend and ask them to help.

Thank you ~ Teşekkür ederim

Webpage design by Amy L. Beam