The Turkish-American Cultural Association of Michigan, along with members a part of Eastern Michigan University faculty, have created a relief campaign in hopes of providing the resources needed to those impacted by the recent earthquakes in Turkey.
On Feb. 6, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in Turkey, its location also leading to an impact in Syria. Encompassing the series of aftershocks and additional earthquakes that followed, damaged and collapsed infrastructure resulted, with individuals still being found under the rubble more than a week later.
The death tolls in Turkey and Syria combined have now surpassed 45,000 lives.
Mehmet Yaya, EMU professor of economics and interim department head in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the board president of the Turkish-American Cultural Association of Michigan. He first heard of the initial earthquake in the early hours of Sunday evening while watching the news in his home.
"When I first hear these news, you always have an initial reaction of 'Was it a big one? Was it a destructive one? Is there any lives lost?'" Yaya said.
He felt an uncertainty regarding how destructive the initial earthquake and its magnitude would be; however, after learning the news of a second earthquake affecting the same area, he underwent the realization of how damaging the impact would be.
Yaya proceeded to reach out to other members of the association, including EMU faculty Kasim Korkmaz, Elif Persinger, and Fatma Kocer-Poyraz. With their focus on the first response and the earthquakes' impacts, board members constructed a list of organizations that would be using their funds and resources to conduct search and rescue efforts. The list was then sent out to the association's members Monday morning.
Two days later, the Turkish-American Cultural Association of Michigan fully launched its relief campaign.
The association began collecting in-kind donations such as clothing, winter coats, tents, hygiene products, and more. The collection of these donations, however, was halted on Feb. 13 as the association had collected the amount that had been prioritized in need.
"The generosity of this Turkish-American community was amazing," Yaya said.
There is a possibility of in-kind donations being accepted again in the future, depending on if the need of those donations once again reaches a level of prioritization over other needs.
Monetary donations are still being accepted. As the Turkish-American Cultural Association of Michigan is volunteer-based, the entirety of donations raised through the association directly will be sent to organizations that are providing aid to survivors. At the time of writing, $16,898 has been raised by 138 donors.
One such organization in which funds will be dispersed to is Bridge to Türkiye. Normally having a focus on children's education and other children-based needs, the organization has recently extended its resources for search and rescues along with more humanitarian aid.
If one cannot provide monetary support, the association is in the midst of planning events that will help raise money for relief efforts. During these events, volunteer opportunities will be made available, and all nationalities are welcome.
The board of the Turkish-American Cultural Association of Michigan is also in the process of trying to identify organizations that provide aid in Syria.
Yaya notes that the creation of this campaign was not based soley on how the earthquakes happened in Turkey and how the association is a Turkish-American association.
"It's more of the basic need of the being human right. So helping people in need is... the starting point for us," Yaya said.