PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Two local organizations are bringing aid to earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria, as Virginia Beach-based Operation Blessing International and Portsmouth-based Mercy Chefs are on the ground in Turkey.

The area is still unstable, as aftershocks continue to hit a region in which nearly 21,000 people have died as a result of Monday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake, making it dangerous work.

“This is what international disaster relief is, this is what we do,” Operation Blessing International COO, Drew Friedrich told WAVY.

They have about 20 volunteers there now, led on the ground by Diego Traverso.

“I always tell people Diego is kind of like our fireman,” Friedrich said. “You know, when the house is burning, he’s the guy that runs in.” Friedrich said.

He spoke with the team this morning.

“Diego was telling us this morning there are these periods of about 15 to 20 minutes where everybody goes as silent as they can because they are listening for voices from underneath the rubble,” Friedrich said.

He told us volunteers are filling emergency relief kits and handing out solar-powered lanterns while they assess the needs and how best to respond in coming days.

“I think what makes it really difficult is, not only the devastation, the snow storm shutting down some of the travel, and the fact that with all these aftershocks still hitting, we don’t quite always know where is a safe base of operation,” Friedrich said.

Mercy Chefs is operating along the border of Turkey and Syria.

“We’re setting up field kitchens, we’ve purchased burners and pots and tents, so we are able to go right in to the relief centers and refugee camps and be right with the people that have just literally in some cases crawled out of the rubble,” said Mercy Chefs founder Gary LeBlanc.

LeBlanc’s team served about 2,000 hot meals to four cities Wednesday night – comfort foods to nourish bodies and souls in the grip of great tragedy.

“We’re serving very familiar and indigenous meals,” LeBlanc said. “We’re doing lentil soups and pasta soups- we’ll be doing hummus – boiled eggs surprisingly and tea is a very popular meal.”

Both organizations plan to be in Turkey for quite some time, as the need is still growing.

Want to help?

If you would like to help with their missions click on the links for Operation Blessing International and Mercy Chefs.