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Turkish Students Respond to Earthquake

YZEPPA MACIAS, HOST: The Turkish government and volunteer rescuers are scrambling to save thousands who are still trapped under the rubble from decimated buildings. And here in New York City, Turkish students are coming to terms with the consequences of a deadly earthquake.

Henrietta McFarlane visits Columbia, where members of the University’s Turkish Students Association are working around the clock to support their home country.

HENRIETTA MCFARLANE, BYLINE: It’s 11am and Cenker Camci is taping up brown cardboard boxes of clothes, bedding, and sanitary items. He’s surrounded by a group of students on the Columbia campus. They were up late last night transporting donations to the Turkish Consulate in midtown. It’s been a very tiring four days for these students since the earthquake struck on Monday.

CENKER CAMCI: Anything with tags on or canned food and sanitary products, pads, baby diapers, we're taking in

MCFARLANE: The Turkish Embassy and Turkish Consulates are accepting in-kind assistance as many residents in the affected areas have lost all of their possessions. Nearby 19 year old Yasemin Yuksel is setting up a table with donation signs painted red and white for the Turkish flag.

YASEMIN YUKSEL: New York has so many resources that we can send along their way. We hope to help them as much as we can.

MCFARLANE: Yuksel was only a few weeks into her role as co-president of the Turkish Students Association when she heard the news. When asked if she knows people impacted by the earthquake, she goes very quiet before she explains that her cousin’s husband’s family have been directly affected.

YUKSEL: we want to do the best we can because even though we have a distance, right now, there's still so much we can do.

MCFARLANE: Yuksel’s fellow president, 19 year old Mayra Kalaora joined me by zoom from her dorm room. She was wearing a pink sweatshirt. She was exhausted from the past three days of work.

MAYRA KALAORA: Everyone knows someone or like knows of someone who was affected, which is really scary.

MCFARLANE: What did you think you’d be doing today and this week?

KALAORA: Oh, my God, I have so many assignments that I need to do. Like, honestly, what I expected from this week was just like, a couple of essays, I had a spec article that I needed to write. Just like very mundane school things. And then suddenly, this earthquake strikes.

MCFARLANE: As the death toll surpassed 20,000 this morning, many more are critically injured or suffering from lack of food, warm clothes, and shelter. Kalaora’s family live in Istanbul so were not directly affected, but she still feels responsibility to help.

KALAORA: it is strange to just be 1000s and 1000s of kilometres away, knowing that people back home are like, suffering.

MCFARLANE: For now, Kalaora has put her assignments on hold. She can’t go home. Instead this weekend, she and the other students here will be volunteering just a few subway stops away at Turkish Consulate in Midtown. Henrietta McFarlane, Columbia Radio News.


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