LITTLE ROCK, Ark – As some aid groups from all over the world are working to help those in Syria and Turkey after the deadly earthquakes. One of those groups includes Arkansans from the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) along with local high school students’ letters of hope to children in that area.
According to the Associated Press, the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and the series of shocks afterward affected southeastern Turkey and northern Syria. The death toll has reportedly surpassed 35,000.
Arkansan, Natalie Larrison is the Director of Humanitarian Programs for SETF, she says the organization was formed in March of 2011.
“The Syrian Emergency Task Force started as a response to the killing of innocent civilians who were protesting for their own rights in Syria in 2011,” Larrison said.
One of their projects is “Letters of Hope” which began in 2016.
Two Central High School students, senior Arrsh Ali and sophomore Kate Straessle say the letters are meant to bring hope, love, and peace to kids in Syria.
Ali says she started the program within the school this year after talking with officials in the organization. She adds that she was happy that more than 40 of her peers joined.
“It was honestly motivating and empowering knowing how many youths we have that actually want to help those in need,” Ali said.
Straessle says she started writing the letters prior to the school having the program.
“I got involved when I was 11 years old. My sister did her internship with SETF,” Straessle said.
However, their usual sweet and playful letters have now turned into messages of empathy after the earthquakes rocked both Turkey and Syria. Straessle says she was heartbroken to learn of the deadly circumstances.
“Knowing these kids are going through first the war itself and now having to have this really devastated and traumatic earthquake that hit, we need to let them (kids in Syria) know we’re still with them,” Straessle stated.
Ali says when she learned of the earthquakes it hit home for her.
“My dad is actually Arab too; he is from Qatar and a lot of people in Syria they’re Arab too,” Ali adds. “it’s heartbreaking to know there are people just like me over there like they didn’t do anything to deserve this, and I didn’t do anything to deserve to be here so what makes us different. Knowing that I have the power to do something I should implore that.”
Both students say their school’s program has raised blankets, clothes and other materials to be sent to the kids in Syria.
Officials with SETF say they already have members and volunteers aiding in northern Syria and plan to bring more including the letters soon.
They say the biggest need is donations of money and supplies. For those wanting to help she suggests going to SETF.ngo/donate.