The capital of Turkey is Ankara and the population is 65,666,677 (7/2000). Modern Turkey consists of bustling cosmopolitan centers, pastoral villages, peaceful Aegan coastlines and steep mountain regions. More than half of Turkey’s population lives in urban areas with traditional-style mosques and markets. Turkey has been secular since 1924, although 98% of the population is Muslim.
(2000) Literacy rate : 82.3%   Per capita rate: $5,500.

What was the story I was covering?
On August 17th, 1999 at 3am a magnitude-7.4 earthquake hit western Turkey killing at least 14,000 people and leaving more than 600,000 people homeless. Some estimate the death toll to be over 20,000. The epicenter of the earthquake was near Izmit, 65 miles east of Istanbul. Since the earthquake hit when most victims were sleeping, it is believed that thousands of people were left missing and crushed beneath the collapsed apartment buildings. This was one of the 20th century’s most powerful and horrific death toll shattering an already weak Turkish economy.

In the days following the 7.4-magnitude temblor, tent cities sprung up throughout the quake zone. Some were run by aid agencies and were comprised of neat rows of uniform white tents, but many others were makeshift encampments. One of the tent villages I visited and spent time in was in the city of Adapazari.

The Faces of Tomorrow project was born from thoughts and feelings of the Turkey’s tragedy. As I watched the devastating news about of the loss of life and people’s hope to find their loved ones, one thought kept on pounding in my head: I kept on thinking about the children. In my mind, I wondered if they were trapped under the debris and, if so, what were their thoughts, what were they doing, and how were their hearts. I was so affected with their pain and desperation that I would wake up in the middle of the night with vivid dreams. One of the recurring dreams, however, felt like messages of some sort. The messages were: to take my camera and document the situation through the eyes of the children; to give a voice into the children’s heart; to make their voice to be heard. And with that voice help these children through the fundraising of photographs.

Which NGO’s (non-government agencies) was I representing? The trip to Turkey was not sponsored by any particular NGO. At that moment, the idea of working with children was in its earliest inception and my contacts with NGOs were just being developed. Still, upon returning I decided to donated all of my photos and documented stories to the following agencies:

Many children were left orphaned as a result of the earthquake, a heartbreaking situation that led the government to promise to step up efforts to facilitate adoption procedures. Bearing in mind the whole tragic situation, I began to approach NGOs to follow up their efforts in easing the children's anguish. In the city of Bolluca, I got in contact with an NGO that specializes in the care of orphans. This NGO was called SOS-Children's Village.

The SOS Children's Village in Bolluca was opened in 1992 on a 5 acres property. Presently, the village accommodates 12 family houses, with each of them lodging about 30 children.

My experience in Bolluca was really life changing. There, I spent time with the children and their "aunts" and "mothers" and so enjoyed my time with them eating, dancing, playing and laughing. Unimaginable, these children had such love and life in them. Regardless of experiencing the worst tragedy of their lifetime, being orphans or just separated from their relatives for safety reasons. It really inspired me and amazed me at the same time. Considering everything that had happened--- How could they be so psychologically sheltered? I am really not sure. But in their stories that they told me, they were well aware of what had happened. I will never forget one little boy who said when describing the earthquake ... "The big monster took my mommy and daddy away".......

My final thoughts

Traveling to Turkey was the opening door for many things in my life. But most importantly, it was the gateway to the creation of the Faces of Tomorrow project. Prior to the traveling, my concentrated research brought me right into the epicenter region of the earthquake. While in Turkey, I slept with families in tents, had children who would pick figs for me in the morning, and had mothers would cook the most delicious meals at night. Only once I felt scared, it was after the 3rd aftershock. Actually, I got scared to the point of cutting my trip short. But in the short time that I was in Turkey, I was embraced by the graciousness and openness of local people. After all the devastation and tragedy, their hearts were still wide open.

faces of tomorrow, photographs by diana barnett