In the aftermath of the recent earthquake that shook Turkey and Syria, a group of students from NYU Shanghai have come together to organize a fundraiser to support the victims of the disaster. The group has been planning a fundraiser since the disaster struck and has garnered the support of faculty members Professor Bican Polat and Professor Arif Camoglu.

To represent a small but significant symbol of hope, the team has named their collective endeavor “GHAITH”. The Arabic word refers to the long-awaited heavy rainfall that arrives after a prolonged period of drought, providing life-saving relief to those who are almost dying of thirst. The students have several fundraising initiatives planned, with some already in action, including an online campaign and an anticipated charity bazaar. They are also hoping to hold a memorial ceremony to honor the victims. Their initial plan also included reaching out to other NYU social impact communities at NYU New York and NYU Abu Dhabi, as well as the university Cadi Ayyad in Morocco, to create one extensive campaign and have a more significant impact. However, at the moment, this seems out of the question.

The group is currently in contact with NYU Shanghai’s Student Government to start hosting their events, which includes a concert planned for the last third of March, tentatively scheduled for the 24th. The tickets for the concert will be available soon as the team hopes to put on an entertaining and meaningful show that will utilize the school’s performing talent while also serving as a means to achieve their goal. They also hope to have a place in the school newsletter or an email sent by the school for their fundraising efforts to be more visible.

Talking to the group representative, Salwa Dahman, class of 2026, I inquired about the transparency in the collections of donations and what measures has the group taken to ensure that. Not only to make donating more accessible to everyone but also to make it more credible, the team was considering collecting donations through a local account affiliated with NYU Shanghai and working with Alipay and WeChat to facilitate the process. 

Initially, despite the team’s efforts to collaborate with NYU Shanghai, they faced some challenges. The team encountered difficulties in collecting and transferring funds due to technical and practical obstacles, as the school was unable to provide them with a bank account. Instead, the school suggested that students directly transfer all the donations to the embassy of the countries in question. This proposal raised concerns among the team, given that donors normally do not trust government NGOs, and therefore, this option was not feasible to start with. This posed a significant hurdle to the success of the fundraising campaign . 

“We want to make donating as accessible as possible to everyone,” insisted Salwa. “This is crucial for the success of our campaign, and we hope to have the support of NYU Shanghai in figuring out the technicalities.”

The team expressed their hope that the school could provide additional support and resources to students who are working to make a positive impact, as they were disappointed that a bank account could not be made available to facilitate their efforts. However, recently NYU Shanghai’s Dean Service Corps have decided to join the group effort to help the process be more efficient. Despite the setbacks, the team remains undeterred and continues to explore other ways to make the fundraising campaign successful. 

When questioned about the significance of their actions, Salwa asserted, “I believe it’s my responsibility to do what’s right, irrespective of the environment’s level of acceptance or gratitude. Even if it means appearing foolish, I will not shy away from doing the right thing.” Salwa also believes that endeavors like theirs require someone to pave the way for others to join in and extend help to those in need. She believes that her team’s role is to serve as a channel for individuals who want to make a positive impact and assist in addressing the ongoing crisis in Turkey and Syria. Rather than being the sole agents of change on campus, the team aims to facilitate and encourage participation from others who are willing to contribute and make a difference in the situation.

“We believe that every little bit helps,” said Salwa. “We may not be able to solve the crisis, but we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by it.”

The team hopes to keep building support for the cause, and a recent update includes their potential collaboration with UNICEF for donations. The urgency of the situation in Turkey and Syria cannot be overstated. Lives have been lost and communities have been shattered. As global citizens, it is our responsibility to recognize the gravity of this crisis and take action to support those who are suffering. By fundraising and mobilizing resources to assist those in need, “GHAITH” is embodying the very best of humanity. But they cannot do it alone. It is up to each and every one of us to join in their efforts, to lend our support, and to stand in solidarity with those who are struggling. Let us recognize the urgency of the situation and work together to bring about positive change.

Poster designed by Salwa Dahman