Volunteers in Charlottetown rally to help Syrians after devastating quake

Bassel Malke and other volunteers gathered donations and sold baked goods at St. Peter's Cathedral in Charlottetown on Sunday. (CBC - image credit)
Bassel Malke and other volunteers gathered donations and sold baked goods at St. Peter's Cathedral in Charlottetown on Sunday. (CBC - image credit)

Syrian immigrants and church volunteers in Charlottetown, P.E.I., are raising funds to help the survivors of a devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria earlier this month.

The death toll in Turkey stands at 39,672 from the quake, the country's worst modern disaster, while neighbouring Syria has reported more than 5,800 deaths. The toll is expected to grow as rescue workers continue to look for signs of life under the rubble.

On Sunday, volunteers in Charlottetown sold baked goods to raise money for supplies that will be sent Syria. Church volunteers will distribute the donations to the hardest-hit areas.

Fundraiser organizer Bassel Malke is from Syria and still has family in Damascus.

"My family is OK in Syria. We do have friends and we do have relatives in Aleppo that lost their houses. They lost some of their family members, which is very heartbreaking," he said.

Stacey Janzer/CBC
Stacey Janzer/CBC

"First, Syria got hit with the war and now the earthquake. And it's really heartbreaking what's going on in the region there."

Aid organizations say the survivors will need help for months to come, with so much crucial infrastructure destroyed in the quake.

Volunteers are asking for donations of canned food, medical supplies and blankets to be dropped off at St. Peter's Cathedral in Charlottetown.

"People are struggling. There's no shelter, it's winter time, it's cold," Malke said. "We know a lot of people that survived and their parents died, their siblings died, and they're all on their own right now. So we're basically trying our best to help in this situation.

"Money is not one thing we're looking for. We're actually looking for more help to send humanitarian aid."

Doing our part

Debbie MacArthur was one of many who stopped by to donate over the weekend.

"We on the Island are so blessed and the theme of the sermon this morning was charity, and I think it's incredible that we share our good fortune with these people who are in such desperate need," she said.

"It's horrific, and frankly it's a testimony to the world's response — the number of people they have been able to save from the rubble for so many days ... So they're doing their part and we're doing ours."

Stacey Janzer/CBC
Stacey Janzer/CBC

Edie Rogers is another member of the congregation who stopped by donate.

"It's a terrible disaster," she said.

"We have a lot of people at our church that have come from Syria, that have family members that are still in Syria, and it's just a wonderful thing to help … It's the least we could do."

Malke and other organizers are working with aid organizations in other provinces on the logistics of getting the supplies to Syria at the lowest cost. The volunteers hope to send what they've collected as soon as possible to help those in desperate need.

A second fundraiser is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.