Aksel and Broc Williams are part of a student-led campaign, at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, to aid the victims of the Feb. 6 earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. The efforts focus on enlisting help from classmates and the community, but the inspiration began at home.
“We were upset about what happened, and we were talking about what we can do to help,” said Aksel of a family discussion that took place shortly after the earthquake was reported. “It’s really important for us because we’re a Turkish-American family and we have family who still live in Turkey, so we knew we had to do something,” said Broc.
According to Associated Press reports, the magnitude 7.8 earthquake devastated parts of southern Turkey and northern Syria, leading to more than 48,000 deaths and the destruction of 185,000 buildings. Aftershocks continue to hit the region with a magnitude 5.6 earthquake recorded on Monday, Feb. 27.
“All of the events and activities at the school are led by the students,” said Trinity Prep Director of Student Activities Bozena Lawson. “There was some help from the school and their families, but the students are behind it all.”
The Williams brothers joined other Turkish-American students at their school to discuss ways to raise funds to help the relief efforts. “The students wanted to sell items to raise money and collect items to send to Turkey, but the damage is so great and the distance is so far, they also wanted to come up with a more efficient and impactful way to help,” said their mother Aycha Williams. “At this point, some of the parents got involved and did research and interviewed several nonprofits to confirm their transparency.”
The students decided to support the Bridge to Türkiye Fund, which is working to deliver timely support in four phases:
- Recovery: Food, water, and warmth during the first 10 days after the earthquake.
- Protect: Portable housing, generators, and other necessities within the first 40 days.
- Rebuild: Provide for children’s health and education, and begin building new lives for survivors in the first six months.
- Sustain: Finding long-term solutions beyond the first six months.
An assembly was presented to explain the extent of the devastation to the entire school. “They knew the earthquake happened, but they didn’t know what the area looked like and all the damage that was done,” said Broc of his classmates. A video, produced by Aksel, was at the heart of the assembly.
“It took about two days to put together,” said Aksel. “We used pictures from my mom’s Instagram account, because she had been following what was going on, and searched the internet for information and video footage.”
The two-week campus campaign, which ends on March 7, includes lunchtime sales of root beer floats, cupcakes, ice cream, and artwork to benefit relief efforts. Students are also encouraged to collect toiletries and supplies to be shipped overseas.
A donations page that directly benefits the Bridge to Türkiye Fund has currently recorded just over $1,400 of a $25,000 goal. The page will remain active for community donations, and an Amazon Wish List features necessities that will be delivered to the school and collected by a Trinity Prep family for delivery to the Turkish embassy. Aksel’s video has been sent to everyone at the school as a means to help spread the word about the fundraising efforts and the need for aid.
Among the artwork for sale are mixed-media pieces, created by Broc, that carry a message inspired by the tragedy and the response.
“My theme is love, because of the way everyone came together to help, so I made hearts,” he said.