Donations for earthquake victims pour in across the Eastlondonlines boroughs

By Selin Oztuncman, Imogen Adam, Kamilla Abuziarova and Mekdes Kabeto

Pic: Mekdes Kabeto
Volunteers in Goldsmiths Community Centre Pic: Mekdes Kabeto

Donations are being collected by volunteers across the Eastlondonlines boroughs in support of the victims of the earthquakes which have left more than 25,000 dead and 65,000 injured in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

In Lewisham, volunteers from Dr Fazil Kucuk Turkish School and the Polish Community Centre in Catford, are working together to gather donations at the Goldsmiths Community Centre, in Catford.

Volunteers from Dr Fazil Kucuk Turkish School Pic: Mekdes Kabeto

Due to the sheer number of donations received, Goldsmiths Community Centre offered their space to be used for free, for the delivery and sorting of donations, between February 10 and 11.  

Ulash Tozoun, Head of the Dr Fazil Kucuk Turkish school, told ELL: “After hearing the news, we used social media, and our school WhatsApp chats to start sharing about how we can support Turkish people living here in the UK. 

“I have been receiving around 350 calls a day from people asking what items they can donate and where can they donate them.” 

No edible or liquid items can be sent, instead, the Turkish government have requested essentials such as nappies, warm clothing, tents, blankets and sleeping bags.  

He added: “135 people will be coming back tomorrow to help with all the packaging of items in here. I’m very pleased with the Turkish Cypriot community, especially in South London. It’s been a really emotional day for all of us.” 

Tozoun told ELL: “My little cousin is under debris in Turkey. They were visiting from Cyprus when their hotel was destroyed. She’s still missing.”

Twenty-year-old Serra Kazandag, a Turkish student in Berlin, also told ELL how her family was affected by the disaster. Her mother’s side of the family resides in the city of Kahramanmaras, one of the 10 cities hit by earthquakes.

Serra said: “My mother’s relatives are currently still under the rubble, and probably dead.” She provided ELL with pictures of the building her relatives used to live in, which now, doesn’t exist.

Serra’s family’s once 10-story building is fully collapsed Pic: Serra Kazandag

She added: “No rescue teams could reach the people trapped under the ruins of the building so far because of the way it collapsed. The reason for this is that the bakery that moved into the ground floor unlawfully altered the building’s structure.”

Official estimates suggest 6,000 to 7,000 buildings collapsed, as rescue operations continue 120 hours after the disaster hoping to save lives.

Agnieszka Lokaj, a Polish Community Centre Volunteer, said: “I just want to say thank you to everyone. This has shown how the community doesn’t have a nationality, we are just one nation, and we are helping each other.”

Volunteers receiving and packing donations at Goldsmiths Community Centre Pic: Mekdes Kabeto

The school will also be using Harris Girl’s Academy on Lennard Road in Bromley as a donation site, which is where the Dr Fazil Kucuk school teaches Turkish language and culture on Saturdays.

In Hackney, Aziziye Mosque on Stoke Newington Road has been accepting donations since the day the news about the earthquakes broke and has already sent three trucks worth of aid to be flown over to help those affected by the disaster.

Imam of the mosque, Ebu Bekir Tezgel, told ELL: “We’re in London with the biggest Turkey-related mosque and we’ve got many brothers and sisters who come here for their worship and they are from all these cities that have been affected [by the earthquakes].”

Tezgel added how he was texting a person who had gone to hospital because they felt severely depressed from the aftermath of the deadly earthquakes: “It’s my duty to show that I’m with him, that he has what shoulder to put his head on. And this is the way that we’ve been supporting others since Monday.”

The Aziziye mosque had been collecting food, clothes, blankets and all the items that might be necessary for the survivors not only for Turkey but also for Syria which was affected as well.

Aziziye Mosque in Stoke Newington Pic: Kamilla Abuziarova

On 10 February, three trucks were shipped out, with more waiting to be sent out later this week.

As for now, the mosque has stopped accepting donations of food and clothes and has gone on to receive financial donations. Tezgel said: “It’s not just the food and clothes that are needed at the moment, it’s also shelter, warmth, and safety. And rebuilding what’s actually been destroyed.”  

Usually, on Fridays, the mosque collected the donations meant for running the mosque itself, but the collection on Friday, February 10 was for those affected by the earthquakes. Tezgel said: “Normally, we would get a maximum of 700 pounds, but today it’s amazing that we’ve actually collected a donation of 12,000 pounds, for brothers and sisters who are in need.” 

A truck filled with donations ship out Pic: Kamilla Abuziarova

Although Tezgel has been barely sleeping ever since the disaster hit, just like many others who have been affected, but he said that there was still energy to be more helpful. “We’ve still got our human values,” he said. “This is not about a nation or religion, or a sector, or a group. It’s about human beings helping other human beings, and it is amazing.”

In Croydon, Croydon Refugee and New Communities Forum are leading a donation operation at Rosa Parked Café in West Croydon. They are accepting warm clothes, winter supplies, baby nappies and much more until February 19.

Croydon Mayor Jason Perry expressed his sadness for the earthquakes and urged everyone to help out if they can by donating to the campaign by Croydon Refugee and New Communities Forum.

As international aid efforts continue, many nationwide NGOs and local groups in London have come together for fundraising campaigns. British Red Cross and Islamic Relief UK are accepting donations, and Turkish societies in London universities are running successful donation campaigns.

More than 70 countries have offered both humanitarian aid and offered to send rescue teams to the region so far. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited the donation collection point at the University College London campus and met with students from the university’s Turkish Society on February 9.

The Turkish death toll has surpassed the last major earthquake that happened in 1999 with over 15,000 deaths, making this the biggest disaster Turkey has faced in the last two decades.

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