Local efforts help Turkey/Syrian earthquake refugees


Photo by Leslie Fireman

A banner advertising relief efforts hangs in the common area at Wheaton North High School on March 3.

By Anela Poskovic, Reporter

Local efforts are underway to assist victims of a natural disaster after the borders between Turkey and Syria experienced two more sizable earthquakes on February 20. These earthquakes come on the heels of two earthquakes that struck on the 6 of February, leaving more than 47,000 people dead.

Turkey and Syria, both located in the Middle East around the Mediterranean Sea, were impacted by the disaster. The first earthquake hit Gaziartup, in Turkey, with a 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale. The second earthquake measured 7.5 in magnitude, and originated in Ekinözü and Kahramanmaras. 

Taking into consideration the latest two earthquakes, in addition to the aftershocks the countries have experienced, experts estimate  94,000 civilians have been killed 

Since the disaster, both national and local organizations have taken steps to help the victims of the earthquakes, and allow people in communities such as West Chicago, Winfield and Carol Stream to support Turkey and Syria. 

However, Illinois Attorney General Kwami Raoul issued a statement on February 14, warning donors to be careful in selecting organizations, as some relief efforts may not be as effective as others.

“Providing resources to organizations that [are] going to do good on the ground. WeGo Global uses a site called Charity Navigator, and they look at organizations that you can donate money, and they look if they are using the money as wisely as possible,“ Maggie Hass, a Social Studies teacher at WEGO, and the adviser of WEGO Global, said.

One of the organizations working to help the injured and evacuated, is the Turkish Red Crescent Society, which has also stationed more than 5,000 staff members and volunteers in the 10 impacted locations. They provide food and basic medical supplies, and their teams have served millions of hot meals to those in the open and in shelters. While they are currently focused on blood donations to support patients who need life-saving measures, they too solicit online financial donations to help those in need.

However, local efforts are also underway. The Turkish American Cultural Alliance, located in Chicago (3845 N.Harlem Ave, Chicago, IL), recently held a donation drive for the earthquake victims as well. Adult and children’s winter clothing, tents, sleeping bags, generators, flashlights, baby food and diapers, and cleaning and hygiene supplies were collected by TACA. The drive ended last month. 

The earthquake has devastated areas in Syria and Turkey. They are neighboring countries. (Photo by Anela Poskovic)

“In the future, we might have special weekends where we collect specific clothing items or medical supplies or something, but we need to regroup and figure out working with our partners on the other side, in Turkey, and what’s needed. So, we may have a future fund drive, and we may not,” Zerrin Bulut, Secretary of TACA, said. 

However, high school students can help support the victims of the quake as well. 

“Put together a concert and the cash from ticket sales can go to earthquake relief,” Bulut said. She referred to a Chicago musician who put together a concert recently to aid those in need, and encouraged young people to “highlight their skills” by tapping into those interests to support the earthquake victims.

At this point, Bulut is not aware of any efforts to rebuild housing in Turkey/Syria. Medical supplies are coming in from area hospitals, like West Suburban, but for students looking to get involved, the process may need to start from the ground up.

“One, focus on cultural awareness. Where is Turkey? Some people don’t even know where it is. Learning about the culture. And number two, help in any way you can with bake sales or concerts or anything like that,” Bulut said.

Bulut mentioned that the Turkish Consulate General reminded organizations across the globe that “this is a marathon, not a sprint”. The efforts to support the victims of the earthquakes will likely continue for several months, if not years.

While no efforts have been launched at West Chicago Community High School as yet, that is not to say that nothing will be done to support the victims of the earthquakes.

“Hopefully, people are paying attention to what happened, and if they haven’t heard of it, they should look into it and see what ways they can help in what we do at school or in the Red Cross,” said Activity Director Marc Wolfe.