Ahmad Alsheikh ’24 awoke on Monday to news of a giant earthquake hitting his hometown, a place already battered by conflict and displacement.
Thankfully, Alsheikh’s relatives in Aleppo, Syria, survived the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, though several watched their houses fall. “A lot of my family members described the earthquake as worse than anything that they’ve witnessed in 13 years of civil war,” Alsheikh said in an interview Wednesday.
Also hearing the news from afar was Ahmet Akbiyik, a Ph.D. student in political economy and government, an interfaculty program between the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Kennedy School. Akbiyik grew up in the ancient city of Sanliurfa, Turkey, or “the next city to the epicenter … where around 200 buildings have collapsed,” he said.
“My close family is OK,” Akbiyik reported Wednesday by phone. “But unfortunately, I lost several distant relatives.”
By nightfall Monday, both students were mobilizing to support aid and recovery efforts. Akbiyik opted to raise dollars independently via Go Fund Me, directing all contributions to Turkish Philanthropy Funds Turkiye Earthquake Relief Fund. He selected the nonprofit, in part, due to its base in the U.S. “That way people around me will be more familiar with it, and it will be trustworthy,” he said.
As of Friday morning, Akbiyik said, his fundraiser totaled more than $5,400, with an anonymous donor pledging to match up to $10,000.