Derry & Strabane Council to promote Turkey / Syria earthquake fundraising efforts

Derry City and Strabane Council will help promote local fundraising efforts iming to support those affected by the devastating earthquakes that struck southern Turkey and Syria, following a proposal brought forward by SDLP Cllr Lilian Seenoi-Barr.
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The focus of the appeal is to raise much-needed cash that can be swiftly distributed to local charities and aid organisations in the affected areas by the Disaster Emergency Committee.

Rescue and relief efforts have been hindered by the harsh weather conditions and the significant damage to infrastructure in both Turkey and Syria, making it difficult to determine the full extent of the disaster. However, the urgency of the need for support is paramount.

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At a meeting organised by the Muslim Council of Britain in collaboration with aid organisations, Colr Seenoi-Barr was informed that physical donations are not being requested at this time. Instead, the Muslim Council of Britain has advised that the cost of storage and transportation often exceeds the value of donated items and that financial contributions would be more beneficial. The funds can be used to purchase necessary supplies from local communities, providing greater flexibility for local charities to respond to the most pressing needs.

Destruction following the earthquake.Destruction following the earthquake.
Destruction following the earthquake.

Colr Seenoi-Barr stated: “I think this council can play a key role in mobilising and organising communities through a fundraising appeal using the council facilities and also the infrastructure that we have around our city and district.”

The Foyleside councillor added: “I am keen that we focus on collecting financial donations that can be passed quickly to local charities on the ground who can put it to best use. It’s safe to assume that things like food, medical supplies, nappies for children and materials for putting roofs over people’s heads are needed but they are maybe other things that we haven’t thought of.

“I’d always prefer to let those directly involved in the rescue and relief effort make those decisions rather than us trying to second guess what’s needed from afar.”

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People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin supported the proposal. However, he suggested it may be more effective to provide a list of recommended organisations for people to donate to, adding that this information could be shared on social media and launched by the Mayor.

SDLP Colr. Lilian Seenoi-Barr.SDLP Colr. Lilian Seenoi-Barr.
SDLP Colr. Lilian Seenoi-Barr.

He said: “The Syrian, Turkish and Kurdish communities that live in our district know that there is a tremendous amount of support and solidarity for them and I think we should be doing everything we can to make sure that there’s as much relief and help goes there as possible because it is devastating.

“I welcome the proposal but maybe we should just talk about what the best means is for us as a council to support the relief effort.”

Sinn Féin Councilor Michaela Boyle proposed an amendment that rather than council coordinate fundraising efforts it would instead work with existing charities to promote their local fundraising efforts.

Colr Boyle informed the chamber that the Mayor had been in contact with the Turkish Embassy to assist both communities and stated: “There are major charities already collecting funds and our Mayor has promised to promote their efforts through council channels.”

SDLP Councilor Brian Tierney supported his party colleague’s proposal and said: “If council provides information on where and how to donate, people can be assured that their donations will reach those in need. That should be our end goal.”

UUP Alderman Darren Guy, although supporting ‘the basis’ of the proposal, was concerned about the level of council’s involvement and the transfer of monies raised to the affected area, while UUP Alderman Derek Hussey cautioned against a “knee-jerk reaction” and urged council members to remember that the disaster will affect the community for months and years to come.

He then welcomed the inclusion that ‘finances would go to organisations and businesses in the affected region so that it can feed back into the economy’.

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Summing up, Colr Seenoi-Barr said: “The most important thing is that we act quickly and that we provide an easy means by which our local residents can mobilise and support those who need that help now.”

The substantive motion passed unanimously.

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter