Students Seek Funds, Supplies for Earthquake Victims as Death Toll Climbs

February 9, 2023 By Jane Kelly, Jane Kelly,

The most basic of items are in desperate need in Turkey and Syria, where a massive earthquake and aftershock has killed more than 20,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless in the world’s deadliest temblor in more than a decade.

As rescue operations continue, survivors in both countries are huddled under makeshift shelters against the bitter winter cold.

Since the quake struck in the early morning hours of Monday, students at the University of Virginia have been doing what they can to help from a distance. About 80 UVA students, faculty and staff are from Turkey or Syria.

“It’s devastating right now,” Ahmet Cengiz, a third-year student from Turkey, said. “We know that half a million people are going to be homeless in the region. And as you know, it’s winter and at least for a few more months, it’s going to be really cold.”

Cengiz is encouraging people to send requested supplies to either the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., or to one of its consulates across the country.

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The Turkish government is requesting the following supplies:

  • Blankets.
  • Tents.
  • Sleeping bags.
  • Pocket warmers.
  • Winter clothing (jackets, gloves, headgear).
  • Over-the-counter medications for flu and colds; and pain killers.

Cengiz and fellow Turkish students Eren Okandan and Esra Tiras are also encouraging people to give badly needed monetary donations to both Syria and Turkey via outlets including UNICEF and the British Red Cross.

“I mean, talk about the impact of this thing,” Okandan said. “It’s almost as if this earthquake was from Philadelphia to New York City. That’s how big of an area that it is impacting.”

Tiras has a lot of friends from Kahramanmaras, a place in Turkey that was hit hard by the quake. She said she has been in touch with people from the Turkish community and heard of a number of people who were killed in the earthquake. One of her friends, a young woman named Belgin, is still missing in the rubble.

“The world should be aware of how an earthquake can cause catastrophes for other people and their families as well,” Tiras said. “Although I am unable to physically help my fellow citizens from far away, I believe I can at least raise awareness and contribute to the relief efforts by collecting funds for their needs. I need to do something for those people. And not just Turkish people – Syrian people as well.”

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“The devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria has already emerged as one of the single most catastrophic natural disasters in modern times, and we are deeply worried for the friends and families of our several dozen students and staff members from those countries who may be suffering from the impact,” Stephen Mull, UVA’s vice provost for global affairs, said. “We have reached out to the Turkish and Syrian members of our community to offer any special assistance they may require during this difficult time.”

Earlier this week, UVA leaders reached out to the school’s Turkish community to offer “our heartfelt support” and encourage anyone who is suffering to take advantage of the school’s mental health programs.

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Jane Kelly

University News Senior Associate Office of University Communications