Turkish Student Association booth

Turkish Student Association booth in the UCC Atrium, March 3, 2023.

Of all the student clubs on campus fundraising to support victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes, the Turkish Student Association probably faced the longest road to get their message to students.

On Feb. 6, the most devastating earthquake in the last 20 years hit Turkey and Syria, leaving over 50,000 people dead, under the rubble or displaced. Aftershocks are continuing in the regions, making matters worse for survivors.

For students of Turkish or Syrian descent, the earthquake brought a range of emotions and reactions. 

“It’s a feeling you won’t understand until you actually go through it,” said Turkish Student Association operations manager Defne Eriskon.

“If someone’s under the rubble, that’s my cousin, my sister. It’s like our own family.”

Ahead of reading week, the TSA set up their first fundraising booth at the Grad Club. The club initially hoped to booth in the in the University Community Centre, but the booth approval process is lengthy for unofficial University Students’ Council clubs, according to Eriskon.

Eriskon said that, although the USC had a lengthy approval process, the group felt they couldn’t just wait around — it was important to them to set up a booth anywhere on campus. The Grad Club was the best alternative.

The Grad Club, run by the Society of Graduate Students, responded to the group within 24 hours. The campus restaurant allowed the TSA to keep their booth for extended hours on days with more customers, like the Grad Club’s Tuesday Trivia Night, to increase student reach.

“They don't owe [us] anything,” said Eriskon. “I can speak on behalf of the whole Turkish Student Association and say that it's become our second home and we're eternally grateful for opening their doors within 24 hours.”

Following reading week, the TSA was successful in relocating their fundraising booth to the UCC and will be there until Friday afternoon. The club has raised a collective total of over $2,000 from the Grad Club and UCC booths for charities such as AHBAP and the Canadian Red Cross.

Western University has reposted an image of the booth flyers on their official Instagram story to encourage donations.

The TSA distributed booklets with QR codes of the non-profit charities AHBAP and Canadian Red Cross at their booth. Once a code was scanned, the page was directed to earthquake relief information and a donation form. Both cash and online donations are accepted at the booth.

Eriskon advocated for fundraising for the Canadian Red Cross effort because it is matching donations. 

“A $15 donation can buy [in Turkey] 60 bottles of water, a heater and a sleeping bag. That's crazy,” said Eriskon.

The TSA isn’t alone in it’s fundraising efforts. The Muslim Students’ Association and the Arab Students’ Association also set up booths in the UCC and Brescia University College to raise funds for Islamic Relief Canada, a charity helping victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquake.

Two weeks ago, the two clubs collaborated on a women-only cultural fashion show — An Evening in the East — held in the Mustang Lounge. The event sold out and all proceeds were donated to the Turkey and Syria Earthquake Relief.

The MSA and ASA exceeded their collective donation goal of $5,000 by over double, raising a total of $12,580.

Correction (March 3, 2023, 1:30 p.m.): This article has been corrected to reflect that the TSA raised over $2,000 for charities such as AHBAP and the Canadian Red Cross, not the Islamic Relief Fund.



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