How Metro Detroiters can help Turkey in earthquake aftermath

Hannah Mackay
The Detroit News

Metro Detroiters looking to provide aid to survivors of Monday's earthquake on the border of Turkey and Syria can contribute to several local and international efforts.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake's death toll has passed 20,000 and rescue workers are still searching through the remains of affected communities for survivors.

The earthquake hit a border region of Turkey and Syria and injured and displaced over 75,000 people. An unknown number are still without shelter and in need of things like tents, blankets and sleeping bags.

The Turkish American Cultural Association of Michigan has been organizing a campaign to help provide relief to people affected by the earthquake. Donated funds will go to nonprofit organizations such as Bridge to Turkey, which is still conducting search and rescue operations on the ground. People can donate to the association here.

"First and foremost... they need money," said Fatma Kocer, the association's vice president. "Nonprofit organizations have much more bargaining power. So with the money that I can buy five things they can buy many more things."

People can also donate to international humanitarian organizations providing aid to Turkey like UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders, Kocer said.

Destroyed buildings are seen from above in Antakya, southeastern Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. Thousands who lost their homes in a catastrophic earthquake huddled around campfires and clamored for food and water in the bitter cold, three days after the temblor and series of aftershocks hit Turkey and Syria.

Turkish Embassies and Consulates in the United States are also collecting specific items to send directly to affected communities. They request blankets, tents, sleeping bags, winter clothes, boots, pocket warmers and over-the-counter medications for flu, cold and painkillers, according to the American Red Cross.

The Turkish American Association of Michigan will be collecting donated items to send to the embassy at their Cultural Center at 28847 Beck Road in Wixom from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Kocer said she is still in shock and can't believe the scale of the damage caused in her home country.

"We oscillate between anger, sadness, grief," she said. "We were shocked at first. We couldn't believe the dimension of the earthquake."

West Bloomfield resident Hulya Erol Garvett is a member of the cultural association and has been volunteering to collect donated items. She said there are many members of the community in Michigan who lost family and some still waiting for relatives to be rescued.

"We need a lot of help. ... I believe there are a lot of people that have a good heart," Garvett said. "The help is so important as a community in Michigan... this is our home and I want us to be able to get together to help others."

The Turkish Student Association at the University of Michigan also has been collecting blankets, tents, sleeping bags, winter clothes and shoes around campus to deliver to the Turkish consulate in Chicago.

Association Vice President Emir Erben is a senior studying engineering at UM and is originally from Istanbul. While his immediate family back home was not affected by the earthquake, others people he knew in the city of Adana had to evacuate.

"Our community here has been super helpful, super understanding financially with their donations for us... and that made me super grateful," Erben said. "But at the same time, it's not something other people can understand... when 10 cities in your country are in an apocalypse, in a terrible situation, it cannot be fine."

The student club has also started a fundraiser to help survivors immediately and raised over $2,000 in one day, Erben said. Donations can be made on the association's website here.

People often only focus on helping immediately after a crisis but Asli Özgün-Koca, a board member with the Turkish American Cultural Association of Michigan, said it takes years to rebuild and continued aid is necessary. Koca remembers the fallout of another smaller but still devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 that struck the Turkish city of Izmit in 1999.

"Most of the time people think of immediate help and then... it gets out of their mind," Koca said. "This one (earthquake) is much larger than that and the loss of lives is much bigger... I cannot even fathom how many years like not just building the city (will take) but building the communities."

How to Help

The Turkish American Association of Michigan will be collecting donated items to send to the Turkish Consulate in Chicago at its Cultural Center at 28847 Beck Road in Wixom from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Financial donations can be made to:

  • Turkish American Cultural Association of Michigan:
  • Doctors Without Borders:
  • CARE:
  • University of Michigan Turkish Student Association:
  • Turkish Philanthropy Funds: