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New England communities send aid to Turkey and Syria after deadly earthquake

People stand in queue as they wait to buy bread from a bakery in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey on Feb. 7. (Mustafa Karali/AP)
People stand in queue as they wait to buy bread from a bakery in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey on Feb. 7. (Mustafa Karali/AP)

Across New England, communities are mobilizing to send goods and money to areas in Turkey and Syria that were leveled by a deadly earthquake and several aftershocks, which official counts so far say have claimed over 19,000 lives.

Efforts by members of the Turkish-American community in greater Boston have coalesced around the Freerange Market in Medford, a store that sells Turkish and other international goods. Store owner Cenk Emre says it's an unofficial gathering place for Turkish-Americans in the area.

By Wednesday, Emre said volunteers had already loaded ten trucks with donations that will be shipped to Turkey. The donation drive at Freerange Market is happening in concert with the Turkish Consulate General in Boston.

He said volunteers plan to collect, box and prepare goods for shipment every day this week. On Facebook he wrote, "This will continue until there is no further need."

"Like in any other natural disaster, we are worried obviously. We're just trying to figure out what we can do to assist," he said. "Although we are remote, we certainly can do certain things to help people on the ground."

Emre said he doesn't have family members in the devastated areas, but he knows of business owners who do and who have lost family.

According to reporting from the Associated Press, Turkey's government reported that, in addition to more than 16,000 people killed, more than 64,000 have been injured. In Syria, more than 3,100 have been reported dead and more than 5,000 injured.

Hoping to meet the demand for medical professionals who can tend to the injured are members of the U.S.-based nonprofit Syrian American Medical Society.

Society board member Abdul-Fatah el Shaar, a Norwood resident, said he and other local doctors have previously treated war refugees in Syria. And they're preparing to go again: “We are ready to take time from our daily schedule and we are ready to go. We will be able to have more than one medical mission and I’m hoping to be part of this myself."

Other aid efforts are underway elsewhere in New England.

In New Hampshire, Nadia Alawa, the CEO and founder of the nonprofit NuDay, is is collecting donations in a warehouse in Derry and will send those supplies in the next few weeks, she told NHPR.

NuDay provides shelter to 1,000 people and has 100 volunteers in two Syrian communities.

Alawa said she's been in touch with some of the organization's volunteers who say there's a scarcity of fuel and need for equipment for rescues.

“People are in need of blankets, mattresses, food, generators, and toys for kids,” she said.

And there's a need for winter gear as rescue workers continue to pull out survivors from the rubble in freezing temperatures.

Both Emre and Alawa anticipate some challenges distributing the goods on the ground in Turkey and Syria, where roads have been damaged and buildings razed. They said donating cash is a good option.

Even three months from now, Alawa said, there will still be a need for donations.

Here's information about how members of the public can help:

  • Drop off any of the items requested items here at Freerange Market (325 Rivers Edge Dr., Medford) or the Turkish Consulate General (31 Saint James Ave., Boston). Drop-off is available 24/7 at Freerange Market, with in-person service available 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. In-person service is available at the consulate 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Send cash donations using bank information provided by the consulate general here.
  • The Turkish Cultural Center, along with the Boston Dialogue Foundation and the Peace Islands Institute of Boston, are collecting donations here.
  • NuDay, a women empowerment nonprofit in Syria, is accepting donations here.

With reporting from WBUR's Amy Sokolow and Vanessa Ochavillo, and NHPR's Gabriela Lozada. 



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