McGill, News

Turkish students organize donation drive in response to devastating earthquake in Türkiye and Syria

On Feb. 6, Türkiye and Syria were struck by an initial 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by a series of quakes, including a 7.5 magnitude aftershock nine hours later. It was Monday morning in the region and Sunday night in Canada. Less than 48 hours later, on Feb. 7, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)’s ballroom was packed with winter clothes, canned food, and hygiene products. The Turkish Students’ Society of McGill University (TSSMU) booked the room for a donation campaign and scheduled a cargo plane to bring supplies to Istanbul, Türkiye within 24 hours. 

In an interview with The McGill Tribune, co-Presidents Kerem Ozkefeli and Balca Erozeden explained that TSSMU is coordinating its relief efforts with the General Consulate of Türkiye in Montreal and Turkish Airlines. The student group had previously contacted the Consulate General to schedule an information session for students hoping to vote in Türkiye’s upcoming general elections. 

“We’re not directly affiliated with the government in any way,” Ozkefeli said. “Our Consulate General here in Montreal is greatly helping the students [with] the arrangements of these supplies from us to the airport and the loading and the packaging. They’re helping us, but there’s no official affiliation.”

Most of Ozkefeli’s and Erozeden’s families in Türkiye reside outside of the affected regions. But the catastrophe reminds them of the 1999 earthquake in İzmit, which also caused monumental damages and is remembered as one of the worst natural disasters in the country since Türkiye became a republic in 1923. 

“My family was in the centre of that earthquake, so it’s a sensitive topic for my family in general,” Erozeden said. “When I learned about [the earthquake], I was really scared for them […] because they’re traumatized already from this [….] It’s been chaos for a while. They evacuated the city [….] My family is fine, but I hear from my friends, the people they know are still under the ruins.”

The current death toll from the earthquake in both Türkiye and Syria has risen to over 36,000, but rescue teams are still finding survivors more than 150 hours later. Aylin Tezol, U3 Arts and volunteer at TSSMU’s drive on Feb. 6, is worried about the other humanitarian crises that may follow the earthquake, such as floods from damaged dams and houselessness.

“Because it’s on the southeast part of Türkiye, there [are] a lot of dams and now, they’re very panicked about the dams getting damaged and a flood,” Tezol said in an interview with the Tribune. “It’s gonna be very hard to come back from this, even when they’re done with saving everyone. Most of the cities are all down, most of the buildings are gone, so it’s gonna take a lot of time [to] get everything back together.”

Some of the cities affected by the earthquake are also facing snowy and cold weather that has complicated rescue missions. The TSSMU co-presidents stressed that with the risk of hypothermia, winter supplies are some of the most urgent items to donate. 

“The most basic needs are food, non-perishable canned food, and winter supplies such as coats, parkas, gloves, and socks to […] keep them warm,” Ozkefeli said. “We’re collecting some hygiene products […] such as pads, anything from band-aids to baby diapers. Other than that, we’re collecting air-activated warmers that skiers generally use here.”

Tezol added that Canadian dollars are a higher-valued currency than Turkish Liras. She encouraged Canadians to make any financial donations they can afford, since even the smallest amounts can be significant contributions after the exchange rate. 

“The currency is very different, like 70 Canadian dollars is around 1,000 Turkish Liras which means a lot in these regions where they need help,” Tezol said. “After [rescue and relief efforts], we’ll need donations for a long time.”

On Feb. 14, TSSMU announced that another donation campaign will take place Feb. 15 and 16 between 11:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. in the SSMU University Centre ballroom. The student group also encourages donations to Türkiye’s Ministry of Interior Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency. McGill Syrian Students’ Association is also accepting donations in the form of  e-transfers to [email protected]

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One Comment

  1. Alp Altuntur

    To whom it may concern:

    The collections this week for Turkish/Syrian earthquake relief are in dire need for what articles this week ( Feb. 13th to 19th)?

    We realize that THY flights are Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays this time of year, for the transportation of the materials.


    Alp & Monica

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