Laurier student clubs provide relief for Türkiye and Syria after earthquakes
On Feb. 6, Türkiye and Syria were devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake followed by a 7.5 magnitude quake and more than 9,000 aftershocks. The death toll has since surpassed 50,000 people and damage reports estimate more than $34 billion USD in direct physical damage.
Halfway across the world, Wilfrid Laurier University students are working to provide relief for survivors. Two clubs are spearheading such efforts: the Middle Eastern Students’ Association (MESA) and Laurier Helps Turkey and Syria (WLUHTS).
According to their Instagram bio, WLUHTS aims “to help victims of the catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria by fundraising, collecting donations and informing the Laurier community.”
MESA has been operating since before the earthquakes to inform the Laurier community about Middle Eastern culture(s) and the unique challenges the region faces.
“MESA is a club that aims to raise awareness about the … diverse cultures within the Middle East and share that with the broader student body at Laurier and also raise awareness about issues that face the Middle East,” Zeena Kailani, president of MESA, said.
Kailani and her clubmates were moved without hesitation when they heard about the earthquakes.
“When I first heard the news, it was devastating … It was kind of a no-brainer, honestly. Because it hit so close to home … our first instinct was to just do what we could,” Kailani said.
MESA was able to move swiftly on this instinct: the club had their weekly team meeting on Tuesday after the initial earthquake happened on a Monday. Since setting a fundraising plan in motion, MESA has raised about $3,000 and collected items such as clothes, tents and sleeping bags.
Despite the accomplishments on the donations front, Kailani expressed concern about a media-coverage slowdown and thus a decrease in the public’s awareness about the ongoing struggle in Türkiye and Syria.
“It’s not getting much media coverage anymore … Tragedy in the Middle East is normalized sometimes and because there’s so much stuff that happens [there], people forget how terrible these things are,” Kailani said.
“I just really want to encourage people to still donate whatever they can or at least spread the word and share because, at the end of the day, these are people just like us and the stuff that’s happening is absolutely devastating and horrifying.”
To donate or contact MESA, students, faculty and members of the public can visit their master link: linktr.ee/mesalaurier.
Canada Helps and the Canadian Red Cross, among other organizations, have operational donations pages for Türkiye and Syria. Forbes has also published a review of the most reliable and highest-impact charities for earthquake relief in the impacted regions.