On February 6, a devasting 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria. That tremor, and its wave of powerful aftershocks, brought along a wave of death and despair.
The toll has been severe, with over 100,000 destroyed buildings more than 50,000 fatalities recorded, according to Turkish officials.
One group of Muslim students at Eastlake wanted to do something about the situation, and after they organized a fundraising campaign, they collected over $2,000 in relief funds to donate to the regions affected by the earthquake.
At first, the students did not know what they could do.
“[After] the first series of earthquakes had happened, there was a feeling of hopelessness. We wanted to help but we just weren’t sure how,” Salma Abdelale, 16, said.
Abdelale is a junior at Eastlake High School and the president of the school’s Muslim Student Association (MSA).
MSA was formed a few years ago with the intent of providing people of all ages, ethnicities, and genders a safe space to practice Islam. They meet bimonthly, hosting various activities such as a Family Feud night, where students bring in family members and compete to see who can answer the most trivia questions about Islam. Currently, there are around 40 members in the group.
Like Abdelale, most members of the MSA wanted to do something for a region in which they shared a similar culture or religion. After the earthquake hit, MSA students banded together to take quick action.
Abdelale, along with MSA’s vice president Arisha Rahman, began brainstorming ways to support humanitarian efforts in Turkey and Syria. They spread awareness on various social media platforms, held club meetings, and hosted countless other activities. Abdelale began reaching out to on-the-ground rescue and relief organizations, such as IRUSA and Doctors Without Borders, looking for ways to contribute.
On February 27, MSA officially announced that they would be accepting donations to support impacted countries. It would be a nearly two-week-long fundraiser with numerous events such as bake sales. They campaigned for awareness by promoting their fundraiser on social media, through posters across the school, and on Eastlake’s channels of communication – Pack News and the Wolves Weekly Update.
Companies like Microsoft took notice of their actions and pledged donations as well.
On March 1, MSA organized a Dress Blue day where participants would wear blue in support of their campaign. They hosted a bake sale the same day, where all profits would go directly to the fundraiser.
“The goal of Dress Blue was to send a message that we were all standing in solidarity. The color didn’t matter that much, but we chose blue because it was the most commonly recognized as a humanitarian aid color. [Eastlake students] could ask anyone wearing blue where to donate or how to help,” Abdelale said.
Although MSA had organized similar fundraisers in the past, the timeliness of this year’s fundraiser made it an instant success. By March 8, MSA had raised more than $2,000 to donate to Doctors Without Borders, and secured a dollar-for-dollar match from companies such as Microsoft to extend their impact.
“It gave us a sense that, yes, we may not be on the ground, and we may not be able to reach the people in need directly, but we can still raise money for clean water, food supply, shelter, blankets, medical aid, rescue, and more,” Abdelale said. “It gave everyone a sense of purpose, knowing that we could help outside of our little Sammamish bubble.”