Makbule Kanyilmaz and her family facing hardship a month after house floods

FAMILY IN TROUBLE: Makbule and Arif Kanyilmaz with children Semih, 7, Mikail, 2, and Mustafa, 9. Picture: Nicholas Fuller
FAMILY IN TROUBLE: Makbule and Arif Kanyilmaz with children Semih, 7, Mikail, 2, and Mustafa, 9. Picture: Nicholas Fuller

Nearly a month after their house was flooded, an immigrant family still faces hardship.

Makbule Kanyilmaz is well-known throughout New England as a food seller, trading as Mak’s Turkish Gözleme.

She was away with husband Arif and their three children for the weekend of July 14 and 15, when the water-pipes at their rented house in Taylor Street burst in the extreme cold.

The ensuing flood destroyed beds, clothing, and personal effects, including photographs, and left drawers half-full of water. Cleaners removed 270 litres of water from the carpet.

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“My children don’t have mattresses or a bed,” Makbule said. “We need dry blankets, we need beds, we need clothing – all the stuff that has got thrown away.”

Now, the family – many with ongoing health problems – lives in only one usable room.

“During the day, right through the evening, the air feels sort of dry,” Makbule said, “but in the morning, the moisture gets on the outside through the panels, and you feel the dampness.  If the heater is running, you smell the mould when you open the door.”

The family have rented the property since 2016.

“We can’t move, because we don’t have the finances,” Makbule said. “My son has asthma. I need a dry home.”

House floods when family away

The Kanyilmaz family left on Friday, July 13 for the markets at Laurieton, leaving a key with a friend to feed their cat.

When the thermometer plummeted to -10 on the morning of Sunday, July 15, the pipes burst, flooding the house.

The friend visited the house later that day and discovered the disaster. She rang both the family, as well as the fire and rescue service.

The family returned on Monday, July 16, and spent the next couple of days cleaning the property, nauseous and exhausted.

They slept at a friend’s place on the Monday night. A social worker acquaintance in Tasmania paid for Makbule and the children to stay at a motel on the Tuesday night, and St Vincent de Paul paid for the family to stay at a motel for two more nights.

The family, who hold New Zealand passports, have had trouble accessing services because they are neither Australian citizens nor refugees.

Neither NSW Housing nor Link Housing, the family say, could offer accommodation, because they were not Australians.

Makbule and her three children were also offered a place in a women's refuge, but this brought back traumatic memories from the Christchurch earthquake of 2011.

Family’s health problems

Makbule, pregnant with her son Semih, was trapped under a building. Her back was broken, she lost a lot of blood, and the doctors did not expect her baby to live.

Her older son, Mustafa, now 9, was found under rubble after two days.

Mother and children survived the ordeal, but with health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Makbule has back problems, and may need surgery in the future.

Semih, now 7, suffers asthma and problems with his ears, requiring two major operations.

Three weeks before the flooding, he had successful surgery for grommets, but needs to be warm and dry.

Mustafa was so affected by the flooded house, he temporarily stopped talking.

The parents are worried the children and baby Mikail, 2, will get sick with pneumonia or fever if they have to stay in a damp house.

"The kids need to sleep in a safe place,” Makbule said.

Not having a safe house is particularly distressing for Makbule, who grew up on the streets of Turkey.

She ran away from an orphanage after she was abused, and her husband found her in a terrible situation.

All she wants is for her kids to have a roof over their head, and the education she didn't.

“My children are happy here; we love Armidale,” Makbule said. “I just need to get another dry house for my son's asthma, and get a new life for us."

The family’s long-term plan is to have a food caravan, serving Armidale with traditional Turkish food, as well as gözleme.

This will establish full-time work for Makbule, while Arif looks after the children.

“It’s still our goal to establish a caravan,” Makbule said, “but my kids need to be in a safe home first.

“We want to stay here. We don't want to leave Armidale; we've built a lot of our contracts through our gözleme in the region. But at the moment, I’m struggling to find a safe rental property for us.”

If you want to help this family, you can ring Makbule on 0476 247 711, or contact her through her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/maksgozleme/