Turkish Americans in Arizona stepping up to help earthquake victims
TEMPE, Ariz. - Turkish people in the Phoenix area are trying to do all they can to support their loved ones back home, in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that left over 20,000 people dead in the region.
The earthquake, which struck on Feb. 6, was followed by many aftershocks, one of which struck on Feb. 20.
According to the Associated Press, nearly 45,000 people are dead in Turkey and Syria as a result of the quake.
Restaurant owners donating some sales
"A friend of mine called me from California, 'did you see what happened in your country?'" Edip San recalls. "Then we start following the news at home. Turkish news, and we got so sad, so I don’t know what to say. It's a disaster."
San and his wife, Selda, are heartbroken over the news of what has happened in their hometown in Turkey.
"I walked that street. I eat in the restaurants," said Selda. "We couldn’t sleep anymore. I cannot eat because I feel shame to eat here when they are not eating over there. My kids are telling me, 'mom, stop crying.' I cannot hold myself."
Most of Sans' family still live in that very town where the earthquake struck.
"During the tragedy, one of my sisters jumped out of the third floor, broke her arm and leg, and they both lost their house," said Edip.
Edip said his sister has lost everything, but is currently staying with family. She witnessed her friends and neighbors die next to her, as their building went down.
Both Edip and Selda say being thousands of miles away from Turkey has made things worse, and they want to be there helping.
"I wish I can be there," said Selda. "Maybe I can save just one person there, it will help make me happy. It's just so hard."
Edip and Selda, who own Med Fresh Grill in Tempe, have started a fundraiser. They are collecting money for the next three weekends, when 100% of the donations and 30% of their sales will go towards rescue efforts and supplies.
"I know they are going to help. I'm trying to help," said Selda. "It doesn’t matter where they are from. You should help for their future. I don't know we should do something."
Turkish American Association also stepping in
Besides San and Selda, other Turkish Americans are also stepping in to help, in whatever capacity they could.
"This area of Turkey was housing more than two million Syrian refugees for the last four to five years, so the resources were stretched too thin to begin with, and then this," said Arzuhan Kavak, the President of the Turkish American Association of Arizona.
Kavak left Turkey as a child, but she said she still has family and friends in the region. She said she knew she couldn't sit back and watch turkey crumble.
"A lot of people feel survivor's guilt, but there is also, immediately, what can I do?" said Kavak.
Kavak's organization, along with its hundreds of members, are collecting supplies and fundraising for relief efforts.
Read More: How to help earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria
Turkish American Association of Arizona
Checks for earthquake relief can be mailed to 3428 E. Manso Street, Phoenix, AZ 85044
Med Fresh Grill fundraiser for Turkey earthquake victims
When: Feb. 17-18, Feb. 24-25, Mar. 3-4
100% of donations and 30% of proceeds will be donated to support relief efforts
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A man walks in front of a destroyed building in Samandag, south of Hatay, ten days after a 7.8-magnitude struck the border region of Turkey and Syria. (Photo by YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images)