Turkish students at UCSB have been selling baklava and other Turkish eats to raise money for families affected by recent earthquakes. | Credit: Courtesy Emre Cikisir

[Updated: Feb. 21, 2023, 5:04 p.m.]

Starting last week, Turkish students at UC Santa Barbara have been selling baklava and other Turkish treats on campus to raise money for those affected by the recent earthquakes in Turkey and surrounding regions, where the death toll has risen to more than 40,000 since the quakes hit on Monday, February 6.

So far, the Turkish Students and Scholars Association (TSSA) at UCSB has raised more than $2,500 for AHBAP, a non-governmental charity organization in Turkey that is supporting families recovering from the devastation. The students plan to be selling their baked goods in front of The Arbor on UCSB’s campus for the next week.  

Credit: Courtesy Emre Cikisir

“We wanted to get the awareness out there and just help as much as we can since we’re not there,” said Emre Cikisir, president of the TSSA. “Every $5 donation will help a couple of people just be full for one more day, you know.”

Fortunately for the students in the TSSA, none of their relatives in Turkey were directly affected by the quakes. 

“But, you know, we’re all a family,” Cikisir said. “So it is sad, and it’s devastating that we’re seeing all of this happen in Turkey.”

The students originally planned to host a clothing drive on campus, but the Turkish Embassy in Los Angeles stopped accepting clothing donations last week due to the large amount of clothing that has already been collected. Still wanting to help, the TSSA turned to selling baklava, lokum (Turkish delights), and kısır (Turkish bulgur salad) on campus and have hosted fundraisers in front of restaurants around Isla Vista.

Cikisir said they could not have raised the money without the help of Ali Uzuntepe, the owner of Sade Turkish Coffee and Delights in Carpinteria, who has been providing them with trays of baklava for free to support their fundraising efforts. He explained that their club has been whipping up the kısır and lokum themselves, but joked that they’re “not the best chefs,” so Uzuntepe’s baklava donations have been invaluable.

“He has given us more than $1,400 worth of baklava,” Cikisir said. “We needed that. We only have, like, 20 to 25 students, and not so much manpower. We needed something to sell, and he’s been providing that and doesn’t even ask for anything in exchange.” 

Many UCSB students and faculty members visited their stand last week, Cikisir said, sometimes just to donate money without asking for any baked goods in return. 

“We really love the attention UCSB has given us, so we just want to keep this going,” Cikisir said.

Credit: Courtesy Emre Cikisir


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