First things first
Like everyone else, I’ve been following the news in the wake of the earthquakes.
It’s really hard to fathom the scale of this thing. The area affected is roughly the size of Britain. About 6,000 buildings have collapsed, mostly I think, in the middle of the night. This means that tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, are under the rubble. All in all, nearly 20 million people in Turkey and Syria are directly affected by the earthquakes.
I’m not from the affected region, but have very good friends who are. They have lost many loved ones already, and have many more missing. For most of us, even the worst day in our lives won’t be nearly as bad as what they now experience.
It’s going to be a long-term effort to bring relief to the people in the affected regions. Entire cities are ruined. People are going to need shelter, food and water. They’re going to need help rebuilding their lives.
I’m going to have more to say on the political dimensions of this, but today I’d just like to share some groups you can support from abroad.
The state: you can donate to the Emergency and Disaster Management Authority (AFAD) or the Turkish Red Crescent. It might make sense to donate to the latter if you’re thinking about supporting the medium-to-long term relief.
Ahbap: Haluk Levent, a rock star (mostly 1990s and 2000s) founded this philanthropic organization in 2017, mostly to provide students with tuition and young musicians with instruments. They really took off during the pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis (180% inflation) to basically cover everything for anyone in need. All of a sudden, Haluk Levent was rushing from sick kids to gig workers, paying for treatment, rent, food - you name it.
It turned out Haluk Levent had a hidden talent: he was good at talking to AK Party officials. That meant he could get access to people in need. He could collect from the middle class and celebrities, and use that money for good. People who didn’t want to donate to government institutions felt good donating to him. He turned into a mini-welfare state. Like most organizations in Turkey, this organization is reliant on giant, charismatic man running everything, but hey - it works, and we need things that work now. They’re already in the field, buying things and helping to coordinate relief efforts. You can donate to Ahbap here.
The White Helmets: the people on the Turkish side at least know that there’s a state and a whole country that’s trying to mobilize to help them. On the Syrian side of the border, that’s not the case. Turkey might even overshadow their suffering. The go-to organization here is the White Helmets, and you can support them here.
Needs Map: a former colleague and dear friend of mine runs İhtiyaç Haritası (Needs Map), a platform that makes a live map of people in need. You can click around on the map, find a cause that suits you, and donate accordingly. If a household needs winter clothes or stationery for their kid to go to school, they can register here, and someone can provide it for them.
I went on their website, and they set up something called Afet Haritası (Disaster Map), but it doesn’t seem to be functioning properly yet. I’m pretty sure they’re hard at work to get it up and running. You can donate here to the organization, or you can check in on their live map and donate through there when it’s up. I think this will be a good platform, not just to provide immediate assistance, but also support the medium and long term efforts.
The Turkish Philanthropy Funds: this is a U.S.-based group that seems to be doing good work. I heard about it because Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish-Kurdish businessman who founded Chobani, a food company, is a strong supporter. If you’re looking for something with roots in the U.S., but also long-time connections in Turkey, this might be the one for you. Click here to donate to their earthquake relief.
I’ll keep researching the best places to donate and share them with you alongside future posts.