Santa Clarita Valley residents are rallying together to gather supplies for survivors of Monday’s earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria — a quake that had killed more than 18,000 people as of Friday.
On top of the human cost, the magnitude 7.8 quake devastated both countries’ infrastructure, causing the displacement of more than 5 million people in Northwest Syria alone, according to the United Nations.
Access to food, water and shelter have become critical needs as freezing winter temperatures are adding to the dire situation, and the U.N. was warned a second humanitarian crisis may be imminent if demands for supplies aren’t met.
Starting Monday, donations of needed items will be collected at College of the Canyons and the Islamic Center of SCV.
Weeba Bakhshee, an Afghan refugee who now lives in Santa Clarita and works for COC, said when she first heard about the crisis from students in Turkey, she and other community members decided something needed to be done locally.
Bakhshee said she used the network created when Afghan refugees came to the valley in the wake of the United States military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the subsequent Taliban takeover of the country.
“When we heard about the earthquake and how everybody was affected, including the students that were taking classes online, we wanted to do something about it,” said Bakhshee. “Basically the same people that I knew and the contacts from the last time when we met the needs of Afghan refugees, I just reached out to them.”
The logistics and cost of shipping supplies to Turkey or Syria from the United States makes the feat generally infeasible —- leading many experts to urge people to instead send money to a reputable charity or organization of their choice.
The U.S. has been able to send personnel — including the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, which sent 82 of its members — and money to fund rescue and relief efforts, but physical supplies still prove to be a challenge.
However, Turkish Airlines is now offering to send supplies from the U.S. to the region for free. Bakhshee said all she would have to do on her end is garner enough supplies to fill a truck and Turkish Airlines would take care of the rest.
So, in coordination with College of the Canyons, several local mosques and the Islamic Center of SCV, a supply drive is being held so that SCV residents can drop off items and know the help is going to where it’s needed.
“I love the community anyways, but after the experience with the Afghan refugees and with this experience, it’s overwhelming to see how people can step in, no matter what,” Bakhshee said. “We know that these communities are on the other side of the world. Maybe we cannot go there to get them out from under the buildings or help them any other way, but this is a little thing that you can do and it means so much to them.”
If you or someone you know would like to donate supplies, organizers are accepting the following items:
• New or gently used blankets.
• Sleeping bags.
• Winter clothes.
• First aid kits.
You can drop off these items at one of two locations during the following time frames beginning Monday:
• College of the Canyons Sustainability Center, Room 138, Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Islamic Center of SCV, 28877 Bouquet Canyon Road, Wednesday through Sunday, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.