Chicago residents raising funds for victims impacted by Turkey-Syria earthquake

Heartbreak over the Turkey-Syria earthquake is being felt around the globe, and in Chicago, massive fundraising efforts are underway to get aid to the affected areas quickly.

On Tuesday, the death toll continued to climb – surpassing 7,000 – as frantic search and rescue efforts are ongoing.

"I know how it is when you lose your family and this is devastating. This morning, my heart was just broken into pieces," said Alma Mujanovic, who donated to the relief effort.

From medical support to donations of food and clothing, volunteers are working around the clock, including at the Turkish American Cultural Alliance (TACA) in the city’s Dunning neighborhood, to provide comfort for those in the disaster zone. 

For Murat Ergun, a volunteer, it's an effort that hits close to home.

"I still remember that noise, the rumbling sounds and it just shocks you," said Ergun.

In 1999 while living in Turkey, he survived the Izmit earthquake, which killed more than 17,000 people.

"I remember American soldiers coming to our camp and building those tents. I was in one of those tents, helping those soldiers translate," said Ergun.

In collaboration with the Turkish Consulate General in Chicago and Turkish Airlines, volunteers with TACA are collecting items to send overseas.

Donations they are asking for include new winter clothing for adults and children, tents, blankets, sleeping bags, flashlights, power banks, baby food, diapers, socks, underwear and hygiene products.


"May God help them. They're in my prayers. The parents, the children, and everybody – that's why they are doing this," said Mujanovic.

Other groups providing humanitarian aid include the Syrian American Medical Society — or SAMS.

The organization has been providing medical relief in Syria for more than 10 years.

Currently, more than 2,000 healthcare providers are on the ground in the disaster zone.

"My daily contacts with our staff and through pictures they’re sending me and the information they’re sending me, they’re mentally exhausted beyond words," said Dr. Mufaddal Hamadeh, an oncologist and former SAMS president.

Between its Facebook and website fundraisers, SAMS has already raised more than $1 million for its earthquake response efforts.

"What happened in Syria, it could happen anywhere else, it could happen here or it could happen anywhere in the world," said Dr. Hamadeh. "There is no mercy in the force of nature when it happens, so it’s us humans who are going to be able to help each other."

Donations to the Turkish American Cultural Alliance can be dropped at 3845 N. Harlem Ave. from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.