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Bergen CC Students Raise Funds and Awareness For Türkiye and Syria

by: Batuhan Duman Türkiye was hit by two, massive, eight-hour apart earthquakes of 7.8 and 7.6 of Richter scale on February 6, resulting in the devastation of 11 Turkish and five Syrian provinces during the coldest week of the year, effectively displacing 20 million people, with estimated 100 thousand under the rubble. The world woke up on Tuesday to the heartbreaking news of what is now being considered one of the worst natural disasters in over a hundred years by the World Health Organization. The situation was worsened by the freezing weather conditions and heavy rain and snow in certain areas, significantly slowing down the first response to this heart-breaking catastrophe. 

      The level of destruction is so high that water and electricity infrastructures of many cities have been completely demolished, further complicating an already impossible situation. Millions of people are left without access to clean water and electricity and are living in tent cities in freezing cold temperatures. The experts measure the force of these two earthquakes is equivalent to 330 nuclear bombs like the one dropped on Nagasaki.

     The Turkish government declared a fourth-level alert, calling for international help on the first day, and a state of emergency in those 11 provinces on the second day of the rescue efforts, while 89 countries from all around the world have sent over 9,000 search and rescue personnel. The Turkish Army, police force and every single non-governmental organization as well as any able government worker has been mobilized to the region to join the battle against this force of nature and its effects. Century old rivals, as well as new enemies in ongoing wars, banded together in this humanitarian crisis and are actively helping the earthquake victims day and night for the last week in severe conditions.

    The World Health Organization’s projection shows there might be up to 100,000 people dead. According to the government, approximately 13,000 apartment buildings collapsed in an area slightly bigger than England. This is one-fourth of the whole surface area of Türkiye and one-fourth of the population has been directly affected. 

    Watching all this from afar, it’s impossible to not feel powerless against such cruelty of nature. However, as a born and raised Turkish citizen who is living and studying abroad in the United States, it was unbearable to just sit and watch. Luckily, I had many Turkish friends, who I was still yet to meet, in our school, feeling the same despair and call of duty. In only one day, we, as the Turkish students at the Bergen Community College, organized ourselves in a student initiative, secured the necessary permits and started a fundraising campaign at the Pitkin Education Center in Paramus.

      We were grieving in shock and despair. Some of us were from those cities, some had family and friends there, no one could get in touch with any of them because the telephone and the internet infrastructure had also collapsed. We didn’t know how much attention we could command and were afraid of failing in our attempt to do something good for the earthquake victims.

     The school came together and showed much appreciated solidarity with the people of Türkiye. From the students to the faculty members, innumerable individuals in the school wanted to contribute in any way they could and are still contributing every day. We would like to thank  the International Students Association, the Office of Student Life, small and large clubs, and the faculty for their support in this time of need.

    This is a human tragedy on an incomparable scale, which will, unfortunately, take years to fully recover from. The people of Türkiye have a long and grueling road ahead of them. This is the time to do what we do best as humans and cooperate. Nature doesn’t see borders. Let us not, either.

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