Buildings reduced to rubble. Families sobbing, watching their loved ones be pulled out from the debris. A broken country. These are the scenes currently playing out in central Turkey and parts of Syria following the devastating earthquake that occurred on Feb. 6, the 5.7 magnitude earthquake the following day and hundreds of aftershocks. According to CBS, the initial earthquake was measured at 7.8 magnitude.
With a recent death toll of more than 50,000 people and injuries skyrocketing above 100,000, this has become the deadliest seismic event in the world since a 2005 earthquake in Pakistan that killed more than 70,000 people. Seeing so many people in distress has caused many around the globe to rally in support, some even taking certain measures into their own hands.
Despite being more than 5,000 miles away from the epicenter, members of the Ramapo community have begun a clothing drive for those affected by the earthquakes.
“I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I could do a little clothing drive here and then bring those donations to a place that would fly them to Turkey,’ which would be really nice,” said Naz Tiyaloglu, a senior political science major.
Tiyaloglu is a first-generation Turkish American student and a member of the Student Government Association (SGA). She decided to try to help in any way she could when she saw the horrific scenes on Turkish broadcasts. “[In] Turkish news they show dead bodies, they show blood. It’s more graphic,” she said. “It’s not censored at all.”
In order to get the donation bin approved, Tiyaloglu first went to the Civic & Community Engagement Center to work with Dylan Heffernan, the assistant director for the We Care Program and community service. He helped Tiyaloglu find places where she could send the donated clothes. Once she created flyers, her donation bin was approved. Currently, the bin is located in the Center for Student Involvement (CSI), next to the bookstore. There is also a donation bin at the Mahwah Police Department (PD).
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been accepting donations to help rebuild the country. With Turkey being a NATO member, the country has a lot of support.
Meanwhile, Syria is not getting as much public support or donations. While Syria was still recovering from the earthquake, Israel bombed Damascus, the country’s capital. That, on top of the devastating natural disaster, has left the country in a terrible state physically and economically. Tiyaloglu hopes to help both countries with “a significant amount of donations.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I could do a little clothing drive here and then bring those donations to a place that would fly them to Turkey,’ which would be really nice”
– Naz Tiyaloglu
In regard to raising awareness around the area, Tiyaloglu believes that these Middle Eastern countries may be receiving less coverage due to their dissimilarities to American life. “I do think that Christian and Catholic communities get more attention than Muslim communities… I do think that if Turkey and Syria were well-known non-Muslim communities, I do think a lot of people would care,” she said.
Aside from the on-campus clothing drive, there are plenty of other resources to help Turkey and Syria. One resource is the Turkey and Syria Emergency Earthquake Appeal. Another is the Turkish Philanthropy Funds. Tiyaloglu recommends sending these donation funds money, so they can help the countries in a variety of ways.
“I’m not trying to be an activist here,” said Tiyaloglu. “I just want to help my community back in Turkey.”
Donations can be brought to CSI or Mahwah PD until Wednesday, March 8.
Additional reporting by Emily Melvin
Featured photo by Emily Melvin