By: Aditi Dwivedi, News Writer & Karissa Ketter, News Editor
The Central Asian Student Association (CASA) of SFU organized a fundraiser and donation drive for the people affected by the earthquake which struck South East Turkey and North West Syria on February 6, 2023.
More than 40 million people are suffering from the damage caused by the two earthquakes of magnitude 7.8 and 7.5. Since then, the regions of Turkey and Syria have dealt with approximately 200 aftershocks causing further destruction and an exponential increase in casualties. The affected population of northwest Syria is even more vulnerable due to the decade-long ongoing war, causing millions of displaced people to live in camps.
While rescue operations are underway, the “understaffed and under-resourced” health facilities have made these regions “entirely reliant on international aid to assist with this emergency.” From February 14 onwards, the Central Asian Student Association has conducted multiple fundraisers and donation drives on the Burnaby campus of SFU. The proceeds of these initiatives will go towards the efforts in Syria and Turkey.
In an interview with The Peak, Sude Guvendik, a representative of the Central Asian Student Association, spoke about the importance of supporting the SFU community and victims of the earthquake. According to Guvendik, CASA collaborated with the Turkish student community at SFU and the Muslim Student Association to organize the fundraisers.
She said the “university has not issued a statement of solidarity or support for Turkish and Syrian students and faculty members; we feel left behind by our institution while grieving our loved ones.” CASA decided to work with other student organizations like Amnesty International, to help the victims in Syria and Turkey, and the people grieving at SFU.
On February 6, 2023, SFU tweeted a message that read, “With deep sympathy, SFU shares its concern for those affected by the devastating earthquake in Türkiye (Turkey) and Syria.”
The Peak reached out to SFU for comment. Braden McMillan, the director of media relations, said, “We encourage any student or SFU community member that needs support at this time to reach out” to the support resources provided by SFU Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Resources such as connecting with Health and Counselling or a guide to critical incident support can be found on their website.
Guvendik observed the need for a “collective response,” while discussing the lack of engagement beyond the international students directly affected by the calamity. She said, “The university administration’s silence is disappointing and unacceptable.” As students, members of the CASA are spreading awareness by word of mouth, posters, and through social media. The university, according to Guvendik, could have utilized the “massive mailing lists” to email faculties and students to raise awareness about the CASA’s initiatives.
Guvendik explained the CASA “wanted more exposure” of their initiatives by conducting their fundraisers and donations drives in the Academic Quadrangle at the SFU Burnaby campus, but they were unable to reserve a spot.
She said, “The SFSS informed us that we needed to book spaces two weeks in advance — well we did not expect or predict the earthquake. She added, “There should have been an emergency response for such fundraisers that are important and urgent.” She said the situation “was really hard and they weren’t making it easier for us.”
The Central Asian Student Association is collecting items like baby food, diapers, blankets, sleeping bags, canned and food grains, first aid kits, menstrual products, and other essential items which will be donated to the Turkish Consulate General in Vancouver. The Turkish Consulate General will send these items to the affected areas. Apart from that, CASA has an ongoing fundraiser on their Instagram page to collect monetary donations which will directly be transferred to Ahbap, a non-governmental organization raising funds and awareness about the earthquake and its impact.
To donate to the cause of the Turkey and Syria Earthquake, visit CASA’s Instagram page @sfucasa.