Community members gathered in Uptown Waterloo Sunday evening to mourn and support those impacted by the 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes that devastated parts of Southern Turkiye and northwestern Syria on Feb. 6, 2023. Relief efforts began worldwide, including in Waterloo Region.

On Feb. 12, 2023, KW Palestine hosted a vigil in Waterloo town square with hopes to bring support and awareness to the tragedy.

An organized fundraising event was also hosted this past Saturday, Mar. 4, at the Kitchener Market, which saw local businesses and artists coming together to raise funds for relief efforts.  

Four donation collection centers have opened in the Kitchener area—Chicopee Community Center, Forest Heights Community Centre, Kitchener Fire Department and the Kitchener Market.  

Juneyt Yetkiner is a local musician from Turkey and a relief organizer in the region.   

“Fifteen million people have been affected by this disaster—that is the population of Ontario— and the death toll is increasing by the thousands everyday,” Yetkiner said.

“We have been humbled by the generosity of this community. While we know this community has a huge heart, it reached far beyond our expectations.”   

The earthquake, with the epicenter located in Kahramanmaraş Southern Turkiye, rocked the area and surrounding locations on Feb. 6, 2023, with destruction reaching as far as Aleppo, Syria. A second major 7.5 magnitude quake struck the following afternoon, causing further devastation to the affected areas.   

The earthquake came amid a winter storm that saw temperatures drop as low as below freezing, leaving survivors and victims exposed to difficult conditions and making search and rescue efforts much more strenuous.   

“Our hope would be to ask our politicians and MPs to seek support from the Canadian Air Force to help transport essential aid to Türkiye and Syria via cargo planes,” Yetkiner said.   

“There are also current hopes [and] plans for fundraising plans in the near future,” Eda Ozbek, donation volunteer coordinator of the effort, said.  

Donation sites will also be accepting drop-offs of goods, as well as cash donations, until further notice at the Centreville Chicopee Community Centre, Forest Heights Community Centre, the Kitchener Market and Kitchener Fire department into the weekend.   

Donations of brand-new items are requested due to regulations set by the government of Canada.   

Items requested include: underwear, menstrual products, diapers and wipes, baby feeding bottles, liquid baby food, warmers, first aid products and medicines, pain killers and fever reducers, kettles, tents, sleeping bags, boots, snow pants, and winter coats, hats and mitts.  

Waterloo Region’s Turkish community felt the devastation from home. Along with this vigil, there were a number of other vigils and events that brought communities together.  

Can Gursoz of Kitchener is the vice-president of the Turkish Folklore Society of Canada. He urges anyone looking to help the Turkish community to keep an eye on social media pages of Turkish associations as they call out for new fundraisers.  

The region’s Turkish and Syrian communities are calling for aid from Ottawa. Local advocates met with local members of parliament to talk about their push for more aid on the ground in Syria and Türkiye. Other grassroots organizations in Kitchener aim to send aid directly to earthquake victims.