Ömer Yilmaz, a second-year Visual and Media Arts graduate student, knows first-hand the devastation wrought by the 7.8- and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes that hit southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria last Monday.
“My parents, my sister with two kids, both my grandmothers, my uncles and aunts lost their houses,” said Yilmaz. “Thankfully, they are all alive and well. I can’t go back to see them because I am a refugee in the U.S.”
“That is why Emerson is my family in this new land, and I am asking your help for Turkey and Syria,” he said.
As of Friday, February 10, the death toll from the earthquakes surpassed 27,000 people, and was expected to keep rising as emergency crews work to rescue who they still can and recover those killed in the rubble. Winter weather and freezing temperatures are complicating the rescue and recovery efforts, and in Syria, where a 12-year-long civil war has resulted in international sanctions and isolation, aid has been slow in coming and the situation is dire.
Among those who, like Yilmaz’s family, have made it through the disaster with their lives, many are now homeless with few places to turn.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless in the middle of winter,” Yilmaz said. “[Relief workers] urgently need to help homeless families by providing shelters, food, clothes, and vital essentials. They have got major disruptions to basic water supplies, they have got major disruption to fuel, electricity, communication, the basics of life.”
Yilmaz is asking that Emersonians who have the ability to make gifts, no matter how small, donate to one of a number of humanitarian and disaster relief agencies working in the region.
Among those he suggests are Turkish Philanthropy Funds; AHBAP, a grassroots volunteer network for humanitarian aid in Turkey; White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer search & rescue organization; Karam Foundation, a U.S.-based organization organizing earthquake relief in Syria; and AKUT, a Turkish NGO.
Al Jazeera also has a guide to helping earthquake victims.