Earthquake damage

Students’ actions and outreach aid earthquake victims in Turkey

April 7, 2023

Student Experience

As soon as junior Pamira Yanar heard a 7.8 earthquake had struck her homeland in Turkey in early Feburary, she called her family in Adana, a large city affected by the quake. Nine hours later, a second, 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck in Turkey’s southwest zone. Successive tremors followed.

“Airports, roads, hospitals, bridges…they all collapsed,” Yanar said. “The same with Syria,” which is near her home, she added.

Although it was hours before Yanar reached her parents, she was relieved to hear their voices and to know they and her two sisters were safe.

Yet her joy and relief was temporary as the horror of the earthquakes’ death toll played out. Thousands were dead or missing. Another 6.3 earthquake struck about two weeks later, and the death count intensified.

Spider junior Yağmur Bingül in Seyhan City
Yağmur Bingül in Seyhan City 

By then, another junior, Yağmur Bingül, was returning from Turkey where she flew for a week, after learning of the devastation that struck her home country.

“It was scary to me,” she said, recalling how, after hearing the news, she spent the first two days waiting to hear from her family while watching television to gauge the severity of the quake.  

She was dismayed and worried for her family in Turkey, where, to date, more than 50,000 have been killed or died as a result of the earthquake.

“I am an EMT. I felt guilty and useless,” said Bingül, who is studying biochemistry and molecular biology and plans to be an oncologist.

Having worked on the UR Emergency Medical Services team and as a clinical assistant at the Student Health Center helped Bingül recognize she had the skills to serve as a medical assistant at hospitals in Turkey, she said. 

A Richmond Scholar, Bingül spoke with an administrator in the Office of Scholars and Fellowships about financial support to travel and volunteer in Turkey.

“She said pack yourself and leave,” said Bingül, who was able to fly to Turkey despite the destruction to the country’s infrastructure.  

After arriving in Adana after a 17-hour flight, Bingül immediately began working in Seyhan City Hospital’s hospital emergency room from midafternoons to midnight. Her job included taking patients’ vitals, covering their wounds, and escorting them to see doctors.

Bingül barely saw her parents during her stay, though she recalled one night when the room in which she was sleeping with other family members started shaking. Frightened, she awakened her father, Murat Bingüll who was asleep next to her. “You have to get used to it,” he said.    

Yanar, who is double majoring in biochemistry & molecular biology and women, gender, and sexuality studies, instinctively knew that her country needed help. She didn’t let the distance between Barbados, where she is in a student exchange program this semester, and her homes in Turkey and Richmond stop her from taking action. She reached out to other UR classmates from Turkey about ways to assist their country and Syria.

Their solution was a poster that detailed ways to provide financial support to the two countries.

The posters note that $5 will buy 30 bottles of water in Turkey. They also contain QR codes that enable people to donate money by Venmo. Yanar shared the posters on social media sites with peers and professors.

Her efforts have raised $3,412 since she, UR’s Turkish community, and several others started collecting or making donations.

Asked whether she believes that most Americans are aware of Turkey’s ongoing crisis, Yanar, via a Zoom interview, shook her head and said “no.”

Undeterred, she remains determined to share information about her country.

“It’s about all causes and supporting one another,” she said.