From left, Zeynep Olgun, Elif Yumru, and Mehmet Dogar, who are all History PhD students from Turkey

Cambridge students have launched a bursary fund to help university students in Turkey affected by the devastating earthquake and its aftermath.

Experiencing such a tragedy from a distance, away from your home country where people are suffering, is very hard.

Zeynep Olgun, Newnham PhD student

Elif Yumru, Mehmet Dogar and Zeynep Olgun, who are all History PhD students from Turkey, have created the bursary to collect donations, and show solidarity with those whose lives have been shattered by the disaster. More than 40,000 people have died in Turkey and Syria and hundreds of thousands have been left homeless.

Elif, who is studying at Newnham College, used to live in Adana, which is in the region affected by the earthquake. She said: “It’s devastating to see the place that you grew up in reduced to rubble. I have relatives who died there, so it’s been incredibly personal. Working on this project has been very helpful, it’s really helped keep us focused over the past week.” 

Fellow Newnham student Zeynep said being so far away had been incredibly difficult for the students, but working on the project had been “good for our souls”.

“Experiencing such a tragedy from a distance, away from your home country where people are suffering, is very hard,” she said. “There is a communal grief that we cannot experience while we’re not in Turkey, and we cannot physically help people straight away. We have responsibilities here too, but it’s been extremely hard to put together these two different realities.” 

In southern Turkey, the earthquake caused considerable damage to 18 universities located in some of the most affected cities: Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Malatya, Osmaniye, Adana, Adıyaman, Urfa and Kilis. The Cambridge students say the impact of the disaster will be felt by students in Turkey for years, both psychologically and practically, because of dramatic financial difficulties caused by losing family members, homes and belongings. 

Mehmet, who is a student at Selwyn College, is from Malatya. He said: “There are lots of donations going to Turkey at the moment, and that’s great because the situation is very urgent. But at the same time we know that, unfortunately, in perhaps a few months’ time, the international media attention will not be there. So we wanted to create a long-term initiative, because there are students who are going to need help for years.”

To directly identify students affected by the earthquake in Turkey, the students are collaborating with the Turkish Education Foundation UK (TEV UK), an independent charity established in the UK to help students from Turkey to access equal opportunities in education.

Professor Yael Navaro, from the University’s Department of Social Anthropology, who is from Istanbul, is supporting the new bursary fund. 

“People are dealing with horrible, apocalyptic situations of having to look for loved ones in the rubble,” she said. “We’re very much in touch with people out there, and we know what kind of help is needed. That’s why I’m so happy to support this project, working with the Turkish Educational Foundation which has the ability to reach university students who are actually in need.”

Donations to the fund will be transferred directly to TEV UK to be distributed in Turkey. 

For more information, and to donate, visit: Educational Fund Cambridge TEV-UK by Elif Yumru, Mehmet Dogar, Zeynep Olgun is fundraising for Turkish Education Foundation UK (

Creative Commons License
The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.