Students Hold Candlelight Vigil, Raise Funds for Turkey-Syria Earthquake

Students Hold Candlelight Vigil, Raise Funds for Turkey-Syria Earthquake
Image by Alexander Olsen for The UCSD Guardian

On Thursday, Feb. 16, the Turkish Student Association and the Turkish Undergraduate Organization at UC San Diego held a candlelight vigil to honor the lives lost and impacted by the earthquakes that occurred in Turkey and Northern Syria.

Near the border between Turkey and Syria, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the town of Gaziantep in the early hours of Feb. 6, followed by several aftershocks and a 7.5 magnitude quake nine hours later. The earthquake damaged or collapsed more than 84,000 buildings in Turkey and Syria, and, as of Feb. 19, Turkish officials have stated that the death toll has topped 46,000. Turkey has reported 40,620 deaths, while Syria has reported more than 5,800. Neither country has stated how many people are missing. 

The Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency announced on Feb. 18 that search and rescue operations would be done in most provinces by Feb. 19 night. 

 The vigil was organized outside of Geisel Library and started at 5 p.m. Multiple students spoke about the tragedy, their personal experiences, and ways their fellow students can help those affected. Sixth College senior and TSA board member Sude Kopru gave a speech at the vigil on how difficult this tragedy was to hear about, especially as students all the way across the globe.

“It is hard when your home country goes through any disaster,” Kopru said in her speech. “And being thousands of miles away and not being there physically does not make it any easier on your mental health. You feel helpless, useless, maybe even guilty. It was truly, truly devastating, waking up every day and only seeing [the death toll] go up by the thousands.”

For many Turkish students, hearing about this news while being in San Diego elicited a complex mix of emotions.

“It was a state of shock for me,” said Earl Warren College freshman and Turkish Undergraduate Organization board member Can Yavuz. “I didn’t know what to say at first because it’s hard to comprehend when you first hear about it. Our immediate response was ‘how can we help from San Diego?’ and I feel like we’ve done plenty considering that we’re thousands of miles away.” 

From Feb 6. through Feb. 10, TSA and the Turkish Undergraduate Organization tabled on Library Walk to raise funds and awareness for the tragedy that had occurred.

“The support we got from the UCSD students, staff, and community really helped with our mental health,” Kopru said. “We felt like we couldn’t do anything, we felt like we couldn’t help. So, with every donation, there was a slight relief, it didn’t last long, sure, but still, we felt like we could finally help in some way. We can help our people.”

As of Feb. 16, the organizations have raised over $15,000 through their collective fundraising efforts. While acknowledging the significant feat of humanitarian aid and support in Turkey and Syria, members of the UCSD Turkish community urge their fellow Tritons to remember that the effects of the earthquake will continue to be felt for years. Third-year doctorate student and TSA president Ebru Evcen said, 

 “​​This is not the end, this is just the beginning. It’s going to take years and years to rebuild those lives.” 

Kopru wanted to remind people that this tragedy cannot be forgotten and that continued support is crucial in order to help those affected, including the Syrian refugees that took shelter in Turkey. 

“They need our help more than ever,” Kopru added. “We cannot forget about the people in Syria because they were already suffering and in so much pain. This is not a one-week-long thing. There is a long road ahead of us, the recovery, the healing is going to take a long time, and we cannot move on after a week.” 

The Turkish community on campus has maintained their unwavering solidarity and support for one another during this crisis, regardless of if their families were directly impacted.

“Many friends of mine asked me if my parents are okay, and they’re okay, they’re physically okay, but that doesn’t mean that they are okay,” Evcen explained. “My family is Turkey.”

Even for those unable to donate, Yavuz believes there are more ways people can show support and empathy for those in Turkey and Syria. 

“I just want people to be more aware … As students, not everybody is in a position to donate, but the best thing we can do is learn about the events today,” Yavuz stated. “I just want people to take two minutes of their day that they spend on their phones, on TikTok, on whatever, just spend that time being more educated and understand what’s going on in what parts of the world and how hundreds of thousands of people are affected.” 

“[People can] donate in any way, every penny counts, literally,” Evcen explains. “For just one dollar in Turkey, you can buy five water bottles, so it’s a lot.”

The UCSD Guardian will continue to update this story as it progresses. To make a donation, visit their GoFundMe page or send your donation to @tsa_ucsd_earthquake on Venmo. 

Photo by Alexander Olsen for the UCSD Guardian

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Raymond Tran
Raymond Tran, Editor-in-Chief
Outside of the newspaper, Raymond enjoys playing video games, making animal noises, and watching shows such as Grey's Anatomy, Glee, and Avatar The Last Airbender.
Kaitlin Lee
Kaitlin Lee, News Editor
Haiku: Me, senior, crazy! Major?: Cognitive Science Send me cat TikToks
Alexander Olsen
Alexander Olsen, Managing Editor
Alexander is a fourth-year computer science student, a niche internet micro-celebrity, a hobbyist photojournalist, and thinks you should listen to Geese.
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  • D

    Dr. Pinar YoldasFeb 23, 2023 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing

  • F

    FLAGLEFeb 22, 2023 at 11:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing