The boxes piled high outside of ETAC on De La Cruz Boulevard Thursday night. Tightly sealed with packing tape and stuffed to the seams, each box was filled with relief supplies. It was the same scene that has played out in Santa Clara every night since the devastating 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6.
“We are collecting basically everything because kids and women are devastated,” said May Ocal, who drives from Santa Cruz each day to help with the efforts. “Woman hygiene products, baby needs like formula, diapers, wipes.”
Many of the volunteers understand that the earthquake was just the first disaster facing the area. It’s winter in Turkey, where temperatures can drop below freezing at night. Without shelter to keep them safe, people run the risk of freezing to death. Volunteers say that’s what makes the relief efforts even more dire.
“Particularly [we need] very heavy like snow outfit because it’s so cold over there. At night, it goes 20 degrees. It’s very cold. And if people don’t die with the rumbled building under, they freeze,” said Ocal.
Volunteers have worked 14 hours a day since the earthquake hit, filling trucks with donations and medical supplies that are then flown to Turkey. On Sunday, they will help process donations from Monterey County.
Everyone at the event has a different reason for helping. Ocal is both a Turkish and American citizen and while she does not have a personal connection with the disaster, for her, it was simply about being human.
“I personally do not have any family member in the disaster areas…A lot of people, they have relatives, families or friends. I have nobody but I’m a human and I keep crying and keep packing,” said Ocal.
“I am a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter. And I feel for the people,” Ocal continued. “So instead of watching news and being sad and crying, I tried to be productive and helping them halfway around the world.”
As of Friday, Feb. 10, more than 22,000 people have died in Turkey and Syria because of collapsed buildings and freezing temperatures. While relief efforts are still underway, hope of finding more survivors is diminishing.
ETAC stands for Empowering the Turkish American Community USA. It is a Bay Area based nonprofit dedicated to helping the Turkish-American community share cultural and social experiences.
To help with relief efforts in Turkey and Syria, visit the organization’s website at etacusa.org.