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House Destroyed by Quake, A Family Finds Comfort at Mercy Corps Shelter

January 7, 2004

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    Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps. Photo:

BAM, Iran - Eight days after their home was completely destroyed in the earthquake, the Ghaemabadi family is settling into their new, temporary home: a large, five-person winterized tent in a camp for the displaced and homeless.

"I do not think about my house," says Mrs. Masoemeh Ghaemabadi. "I just keep counting my children and thanking God we are all alive."

The Ghaemabadi family considers themselves fortunate. Although they lost all their possessions, the immediate family of three children and their parents survived. But they hardly emerged from the tragedy unscathed. They lost over 22 relatives in the quake and many close friends and neighbors.

"Right after the earthquake I was very scared," says 13-year-old Batool. "We helped our neighbors dig out their buried family members from the rubble. Many of them were killed."

The challenges the family has faced in the past week cannot be imagined. Batool discovered that her best friend had been killed, as well as her teacher and many classmates. The family attended countless burials for lost relatives. All this while trying to survive the aftermath, living in a tent pitched by the mountain of rubble that had been their home.

"We were very happy to move into the tent camp Mercy Corps and Peace Winds Japan set-up," says Mr. Ghaemabadi. "The tents are much larger and warmer than the tent we received right after the earthquake. We also received blankets, cooker/heater stoves and other items to help us live better."

The Ghaemabadi family, like most of the families who have moved into the Mercy Corps/Peace Winds Japan camp cite access to toilettes and showers, good security and regular access to aid distributions, water and food as the primary reasons they have come to the camp.

"Before we came here, we had to go to the toilette in the rubble. We had not washed ourselves in over a week," says Mrs. Ghaemabadi. "Things are much better now."

For the Ghaemabadi children the camp is an improvement. "Before we moved here, my mother wouldn't let us go out to play. She was afraid some of the half-collapsed buildings could fall and hurt us," says 15-year-old Hadi. "Here it is safe."

Mr. Ghaemabadi, who is a school principal, does not know how long they will have to stay at the camp. "We want to rebuild our home as fast as possible, but I do not have any savings. We just built our home that was destroyed and I am still paying off the bank loan," he says. "We are just grateful that we have somewhere we can stay for now while we wait for things to return to normal."