Hundreds of people from all over Birmingham and the West Midlands have come together to help the victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquake, which has left thousands dead and many more in dire need of assistance.
A city charity has been inundated with donations this week after launching an urgent appeal for warm clothes, sanitary items and essential provisions to be sent over to the disaster stricken region.
International charity ISRA UK, based in Sparkhill, received hundreds of donations from local residents over a 24-hour period after sharing a public request for urgent relief aid.
“The reason people have been donating the aid is because of the recent, catastrophic earthquake over in Turkey and Syria, which has affected hundreds of thousands of people,” said Saraya Hussain, trustee for ISRA.
“Homes have been destroyed, reduced to rubble almost and obviously no homes means no provision for a lot of people. So, what the community of Birmingham have decided to do here is come together with ISRA UK to collect some of those essentials that we feel people might need.”
Donations came flooding into the charity’s offices from across the city on Thursday (9 February). The mountains of large bags containing warm clothes, footwear and blankets were then sorted before being prepared for delivery to the quake zone this week.
Despite the biting February cold, a group of around 20 volunteers began sorting through all of the items, sealing them in bags and boxes all labelled for easy distribution.
“When I’m standing here, I’m very, very cold at the moment but the temperatures there are reaching minus ten, I believe at night. So what we’re doing is we’re collecting things like blankets, winter wear coats, jumpers, thick lacerable clothing, boots, socks, hats, gloves, scarves, to try and alleviate some of that that they’re experiencing over there,” said Saraya.
“What else can we do where we can allow other people to get involved as well? We decided just two nights ago to put a call out for people to be able to come together to contribute to help donate and at the courtesy of local airlines will be able to send the aid over hopefully this weekend.
“We put a call out for those things that we thought would benefit, so we asked for things like women’s hygiene products, baby milk, and hot water bottles, which I thought would be really beneficial; and the obvious things like blankets and duvets.
“So within a couple of days, we’ve been able to collaborate, we’ve been able to coordinate, collect aid and hopefully get it over there.”
Jo Bagby from Hall Green showed up at the ISRA collection point to help sort through donated blankets and sanitary items.
Explaining why she wanted to dedicate time to the relief effort, she said: “You’ve got to do something today, not tomorrow, not another day. They need help as soon as possible so if we don’t get going now, it’s not going to get there in time.
“I don’t know enough about what’s going on in Turkey and Syria but I almost can’t cope with knowing because it’s just too enormous, and it’s just so tragic.
“These people have lost their homes, they’ve lost their loved ones, they’ve got no means of supporting themselves, it just feels awful. So to do something positive helps me to deal with it.”
Brummie Ayaz Anwari came to help order and arrange the donated items along with two friends. Asked why he wanted to help, he said: “Well, we need to do the right thing really, don’t we?”
“Just because it’s not happening on our doorstep, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get involved. It’s a humanitarian cause and we’re all happy to do our bit.”
Joining Ayaz is close friend Antony Hughes who was moved to contribute after seeing the tragic scenes of carnage on the news.
“I’ve come here because I wanted to help out. It’s terrible what’s going on.
“I’ve seen what’s going on out there in Turkey and Syria, videos and images on social media. It’s just horrible and it’s nice to get down here and help however we can.”
The appeal has attracted people from across the West Midlands and Saraya hopes ISRA UK can continue to send money and aid to the earthquake affected areas.
“People want to give, they really do, we even had a lady that came yesterday and donated cat food because she knows that the Turkish people love their cat. So you know, everyone’s thinking about everyone, which is nice.
“Our call out was for Birmingham but we’ve had people come from as far as Warwick. A lady came at the last hour last night from Stoke, to make a donation too, but by and large it has been the citizens of Birmingham, the community of Birmingham and we’re proud of them and hope we can all continue to assist with the relief effort.”
ISRA UK’s first shipment of donated items will reach Turkey on Tuesday 14 February, and will be followed by several more shipments in the coming days and weeks. The charity has been gratefully overwhelmed with donated items and is not currently accepting any additional clothing or toiletries.
To financially donate to ISRA UK and their vital relief work in Turkey and Syria, please visit: https://israuk.org/turkey-