Student Newsroom

Turkish, Syrian students join in relief efforts for Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria


Turkish University of Illinois student Sammy Sleek purchases a plate of pasta salad at the Turkish Student Association’s bake sale at University of Illinois. The association held the bake sale Feb. 15 to raise money for earthquake victims in Turkey. Nour Longi

After a 7.8 magnitude earthquake swept through Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6, Turkish and Syrian students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said they have been feeling helpless watching from thousands of miles away.

They’ve been joining relief efforts in response.

Starting in mid-February, different registered student organizations raised awareness for the earthquake’s effects and collected donations on campus. 

“Although we live far away from our home country, we are still strongly linked,” said Asena Gelisli, the president of the Turkish Student Association. “We still have this bond to our home country.

“We have friends. We have family there. We want to help in any way we can.” 

The Turkish Student Association sold an array of baked goods and Turkish coffee and tea outside of the Illini Union on the Main Quad to raise money for the victims in Turkey.

Amnesty International joined the association on the quad to raise money for the victims in Syria, as well. 

“Even an amount of five dollars matters a lot,” Gelisi said. “With $5, you can buy 10 loaves of bread, blankets, flashlights, some clothes.”

According to the Washington Post, the death toll is 46,000, but the number continues to rise. Another earthquake hit the same region on Feb. 21.

Many students said it is hard to continue with coursework and everyday life as they worry if someone they know will be a part of the rising death toll. 

After news of the earthquake broke, the university’s Office of Student Affairs sent an email with a list of resources to international students from the area.

However, many Turkish and Syrian students said they want the university to do more to show support. 

“They should emphasize this because some people haven’t heard it yet,” Gelisli said. “They should make an official announcement on their website.

“They should send mass emails, and they should let people know about donation channels.”

Some Turkish students said they have been sending emails to university officials without getting a response.

University spokesperson Robin Kaler said the university is moving away from sending mass emails about world events to the entire campus.

“We are finding that they have become ineffective and sometimes create even more distress for individuals in our community,” Kaler said in an email. “Instead, we offer targeted support to members of our community we identify as most likely affected by such events and reach out directly to connect them to resources.