In conversation with the Cambridge Turkish Earthquake Educational Fund

‘We wanted to create something that will last, even as media attention dies down’


On the 6th of February, two strong earthquakes struck southern and central Turkey, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands, leaving cities and regions in ruin, and impacting millions of people in the vicinity. This included current and soon-to-be university students, who are not only receiving an education amid a time of crisis for national educational systems but are also bearing the psychological and financial impact of the tragedy.  

Image credits: Flickr via the Creative Commons License 

In light of these circumstances, three Cambridge History PhD students from Turkey – Zeynep Olgun, Elif Yumru, and Mehmet Dogar (as depicted from left to right in the featured image of this article) – have initiated the Cambridge TEV UK Educational Bursary Fund to support Turkish university students in times of difficulty. The Tab sat down with Mehmet Dogar to discuss his thoughts, insights, and experiences on the initiative.

The Cambridge TEV UK Educational Bursary Fund 

After the earthquake, Mehmet and his friends, Elif and Zeynep, “felt really upset, scared, and frustrated, and wanted to channel these emotions into doing something to help.” Although relieved to see aid and donations going to the region, they recognised that “these short-term immediate responses are hardly enough because they might die down once media attention fades away, but university students will be needing help even a couple years down the line.” 

From there, Mehmet and his friends took the initiative to set up the Cambridge TEV UK Educational Bursary Fund – an educational bursary fund for Turkish university students who have been adversely affected by the earthquakes – on their JustGiving page, where they shared their aims and launched their crowdfunding appeal.  

In terms of how the crowdfunded money will be allocated, Mehmet and his friends are collaborating with the Turkish Education Foundation (TEV) UK, a charity foundation committed to educational equality by assisting young Turkish students to access higher education. “With the help of the organisation, we can identify university students who are in need of financial assistance and help them navigate these challenging circumstances.” 

The Cambridge Community’s Reaction 

When Mehmet and his friends first reached out to senior members of the university for support, they were “really pleased about how much [the university members] all wanted to do something to help out.”

“After emails were sent, very quickly, we had appointments and meetings set up with people like university professors and research fellows, who were all very welcoming and supportive of our initiative.”  

This eagerness to help was also reflected in the student body. “We started receiving emails about students who want to help and spread the word.” Mehmet also shared that “just a few days ago, Trinity Hall Ents donated a sum of money that they raised from a bop they organised to donate to our initiative. It absolutely made our day and really assured us that students are also very supportive of what we started.” 

Mehmet and his friends believe their experiences with the Cambridge community thus far not only “makes a really strong statement about solidarity with those affected in Turkey,” but also attest to “the university’s commitment to helping people go through education.” These attitudes have assured Mehmet and his friends of the need for an initiative like theirs.

Current Accomplishments 

As of 27 February 2023, the Cambridge TEV UK Educational Bursary Fund has been able to raise £6,065 on their JustGiving page from fifty students, staff, academics, university senior members, and other supporters—all accomplished in less than two weeks’ time.  

“We know that many of our supporters are limited financially themselves, but in times like these, every little counts, and it is rewarding to see that people are going out of their way to show solidarity.”  

 Mehmet also shares that this project has supported him in navigating these times of hardship himself. “Here, at Cambridge, there is not a communal feeling of collective grief because it is a different country away from my friends and family. But the support we have received from people really helps give me peace of mind.”

Ultimately, Mehmet is positive about how their crowdfunding appeal can influence the lives of Turkish university students. “Right now, it’s still too early to make any conclusions about how this money will benefit the students. But I’m very hopeful about this because even if each student receives 100 pounds per month, it would make a huge difference to Turkish students to cover their living and student expenses. At the very least, it’ll provide great relief at the moment.”  

Picture depicting collapsed buildings in Türkiye, Gaziantep (Image credits: Flickr via the Creative Commons License 

Long Term Goals  

At the moment, immediate relief measures in the area are focused on urgent needs, such as shelter, food, and living necessities. However, Mehmet and his friends “wanted to create something that will last even as media attention dies down.” 

Mehmet stresses how a sustainable relief measure is needed for university students in Turkey specifically. “Most university students have moved to online education since dorms are currently being used as shelters. But as they start a new academic year soon, they will be met with all types of hardships: psychological, financial, or environmental. They will need the money to face one of the biggest changes in their lives.”  

Therefore, Mehmet and his friends intend for the Cambridge TEV UK Educational Bursary Fund to be a long-term funding appeal. They are “even thinking of potentially hosting events in the coming spring” to widen their reach and raise as much as possible.

How to get involved

  • Make a donation of any amount on their JustGiving page 
  • Share the URL, spread the word, and help raise awareness 
  • Suggest a fundraising event for your college JCR/MCR  
  • Write to Mehmet, Elif, and Zeynep at [email protected] for any questions or proposals 

Featured image credits: University of Cambridge News Page

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