On Feb. 6, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the southern and central parts of Türkiye and Syria. The epicenter of the disaster was 37 km (about 22.99 mi) west of Gaziantep.
On Mar. 13, a vigil for victims of the earthquake was held on University of Waterloo (UW) campus. Second year student Nisan Aydin worked alongside Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity (RAISE) to bring this and other vigils and fundraisers to life.
“We were able to create a sense of community and solidarity with different people,” Aydin said.
Aydin is a social development studies and psychology student at UW. Their goal is to become a social worker.
On Mar. 27, a fundraiser was held in the Black and Gold room of the Student Life Centre.
Students from Wilfrid Laurier University and UW lent their voices in solidarity. Local artists and organizations were welcome to contribute products and services for the silent auction. Local Turkish chef catered the event with pastries and baklavas.
All money raised during the fundraiser benefits the Little Bits of Good Foundation, which is creating container homes for the people living in the epicenter of the earthquake.
“My family was affected in Türkiye, and I have this knowledge and experience, I’m at an intersection where I can help run these events,” Aydin said.
Aydin put together a slideshow of Türkiye and Syria which opened the vigil.
Throughout the night there were speakers who shared their feelings, thoughts, resources and stories that this tragedy brought out in them.
Inci Kuzucuoglu, president of the KW Turkish Cultural Association was among the crowd of students in attendance.
One of Aydin’s goals with the vigil and fundraiser was to help those who were affected feel held by their community.
They know how isolating tragedies like this can feel, especially when one is far from their homeland. Aydin described their Turkish culture as one that is very community minded.
“When one person is in pain and the rest of us, you know, feel it too and so community to me means coming together and you know, lightning, everyone’s load everyone’s burden together, being together,” Aydin said.
Notable speakers at the vigil included Sahver Kuzucuoglu, a UW Religion and Culture lecturer.
Haifaa Alzahhal also spoke at the event. She spoke about how her family has been grieving ever since they had to flee during the civil war which started in 2011.
There were a variety of stories shared that night, ranging from grieving to hopeful.
Both the fundraiser and vigil received an outpour of support from the community. A talented local chef donated Turkish pastries and baklavas to benefit the fundraiser, and there was also a silent auction that featured local artists’ work.
“It was just such a beautiful experience to have solidarity and [having] the community together,” Aydin said.
Aydin wanted to make sure that mental health and wellness was also promoted. Counsellors from both UW and Laurier were also spoke at the vigil.
Aydin reached out to the Waterloo University Student Association (WUSA) clubs the day after the tragedy to organize and event in response to the disaster.
In the future, Aydin would like to stay involved in advocacy work for other marginalized groups they are not a part of.
“I wanted to like specially thank my friend Juneyt Yetkiner, who has been an incredible community support for Turkish folks and for everyone who’s been affected through the past month, and he’s been doing so many incredible things,” Aydin said.
For more information, follow the Instagram account @kw_tr_sy_earthquake_support to keep updated on events like the vigil and fundraiser for Türkiye and Syria. Aydin’s goal is to educate, advocate for and support their fellow community members.