University Park, IL,
14:23 PM

GSU Gathers Humanitarian Aid for Turkey

Figen Karadogan

Words to describe her heartbreak and pain escaped Governors State University’s (GSU) Dr. Figen Karadogan when she heard the news about the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, a natural disaster that took more than 50,000 lives.

Karadogan immediately began trying to get in touch with her family who still lived in Turkey, while simultaneously looking up any information she could find about the areas impacted. As the images came up, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing and couldn’t stop the thought, “they’re gone, they’re gone,” from running through her head.

As a feeling of helplessness began to set in after 30 to 45 minutes of calling her family with no luck, Karadogan was relieved to reach her family members, one by one, and learn that they were all safe and far away from the impacted site. 

Despite not having direct connections to the area affected, Karadogan knew without hesitation that she wanted to do what she could to help those impacted. “All I could think of was, ‘what can I do? How can I help?’ So that night, immediately I contacted the Turkish American Cultural Alliance (TACA), so the next morning I was in contact with the Chair at the College of Education at Governors. The Dean of the College of Education, Shannon Dermer, provided full support to the drive.”

Being relatively new to GSU after moving from Michigan, Karadogan wasn’t sure if she could organize something on campus. She found that the faculty and staff at the College of Education were quick to help, and even encouraged her, in organizing a donation drive for the victims of the earthquakes in Turkey. The donation drive was live Wednesday, February 8, two days after the first earthquake hit.

Turkey Drive DonationsThe collection period was planned to last through February 17, though Karadogan was surprised to learn just how quickly the GSU community could respond to the request for donations and how generous they could be in providing aid. The drive’s collection ended two days earlier than planned with all the clothing, cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene products received.

There were also contributions from Hello Montessori Preschool & Kindergarten and Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School, though about 85% of the total donations came from GSU. It took two trips with two vans full of boxes and bags of items, Turkey Donations Carcargo pressed against the back of the vans, to get all the donations to TACA.

“I can’t find the right words to explain the gratitude to how people responded,” said Karadogan. “I even found bags of items in front of my own house. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how they heard, and I don’t know who dropped those. It was unbelievable.”

After taking inventory of everything gathered through the drive, Karadogan noted that almost everything on TACA’s list of requested items was covered, including clothing, sleeping bags, and tents.

“It just worked so amazingly. I really thank from the bottom of my heart that they’re my family here [GSU] and they didn’t leave me alone in those efforts,” said Karadogan. “College of Education immediately responded and allowed me to start everything right away. I’m so glad we were able to unite and offer help.”