Dr. Binnaz Leblebicioglu is the president of a Turkish organization dedicated to raising funds for earthquake relief in Turkey.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dr. Binaz Leblebiçioğlu got her first hint that something was wrong when she received a video from a family member showing lights flickering.
Shortly thereafter, an Ohio State University dentistry professor received word of a devastating earthquake in her home country. Turkey.
Videos and images of the aftermath took her back to 1999, about 15 days after she moved to Turkey, when a similar earthquake struck.
“I’ve been through it, I’ve felt it, and I know how hard it is, in the middle of the night, to have that experience with a little baby in your arms as a mother,” she said. “So I still feel it. And it was déjà vu, which basically happened again, all over again.”
Dr. Leblebicioglu is also the president of the Turkish American Association of Central Ohio. This organization is working hard to collect funds and donations for those affected by the earthquake. She says donating money to an online fundraiser is the easiest way to help. But those who wish can also donate winter clothes, shoes and hygiene products, which will be sent to the Turkish-American Cultural Alliance in Chicago, from where there is a direct flight to Istanbul.
“We try to help each other,” said Dr. Leblebicioglu. “This is what the United States is, what it is to be an American. And I think people are very interested in reaching out and helping, even though the physical distance is great, we can do it, and I’m very grateful that people are interested.”
Meanwhile, the staff at Tulip Café in northwest Columbus is gearing up for a weekend bake sale to raise funds for earthquake relief.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to support people in Turkey,” said Ali Kutsuker, whose wife runs the cafe with her partner.
Kutsuker also belongs to the Turkish American Society of Ohio. He says there are about 100 Turkish families living in the area, mostly in and around Dublin. And many received devastating news that loved ones and friends did not survive the earthquake.
His own mother had to leave her home after it was damaged.
“She’s fine, but she’s injured,” he said. “I heard something similar after 1999. I mean, people don’t go about their normal lives with their normal psychology. So I think it changes a lot of things in their minds.”
Kutzucker notes that finding survivors at this point would be a miracle. This will be the next challenge that will make many in Turkey need support.
“People will go back to normal life and life will be more difficult for most people,” he said.
Here are some ways to donate and organizations working to help: