AAPI’s New Jersey Chapter Raises Funds to Support Earthquake Victims in Syria, Turkey

“It all began with a colleague of mine working at St. Barnabas Hospital reaching out to me, seeking help for the victims and their families, who are impacted by the earthquake,” recalls Dr. Hemant Patel, past president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) and a founding member of the New Jersey Chapter of AAPI. “I contacted the local New Jersey Chapter leaders, including Dr Binod Sinha and Dr Kishore Ratkalkar, who have been gracious and enthusiastic about the cause. And thus, began the campaign to support the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.”

Though the campaign to raise funds and material support to those who were impacted by the earthquake began in early February, a fundraiser was organized at the King Palace in New Jersey on February 24th, 2023. Attended by over 120 local leaders and members of AAPI, the NJ Chapter of AAPI under the leadership of Dr Binod Sinha, Dr Hemant Patel, Dr Kishore Ratkalkar, and Dr. Pradip Shah raised nearly $213,000 in cash, material supplies including temporary housing, wheelchairs, and medical supplies to help and support the victims of the devastating earthquake.

On behalf of national AAPI, Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of AAPI donated $5,000 as a partner of the event. According to Dr. Hemant Patel, AAPI’s national Charitable Foundation has committed to support this noble endeavor. Rakesh Jain of Mobility Ideal Healthcare committed to provide money and materials worth $150,000 to help the suffering people of Turkey and Syria.

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Lauding the initiatives and the coordinated efforts to support the earthquake victims, Dr. Kolli, said, “I am grateful for the leadership of Dr Hemant Patel, Dr Binod Sinha, Dr Kishore Ratkalkar and Dr. Pradip Shah, who rose to the occasion and have come forward to support the needy in Turkey and Syria. Their efforts and the contributions of NJ AAPI members and the local community are a testament to AAPI’s larger commitment to humanity as a whole, helping and supporting people, reaching beyond the boundaries of nationhood, ethnicity, creed, and political affiliations.”

The recent earthquake in Syria and Turkey has caused widespread devastation, leaving thousands dead and many more injured or homeless. It has left thousands of families without shelter in freezing temperatures. Thousands of people in Turkey and Syria are reeling from deadly earthquakes and aftershocks that struck the region in February, killing more than 50,000 people.

“We are grateful to the generous donors who have come forward to support this noble gesture from AAPI,” said Dr. Pradip Shah, President of NJ Chapter of AAPI. “Your contributions will help us in supporting hospitals and donating emergency medical kits and other much needed resources that are much needed for the thousands affected by the calamity.”

According to Dr Binod Sinha, Chair of the BOT, NJ Chapter of AAPI, “This event and the fundraising efforts are truly unique, as no other physicians’ community or physicians’ organization has organized a formal fundraiser for this cause. When Dr. Patel contacted me, I expressed my wholehearted support and worked hard to support those who have lost their dear ones, their livelihood, and their belongings in the aftermath of this deadly natural calamity.”

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“As the death toll continues to rise in Syria and Turkey following the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake, we at the NJ Chapter of AAPI, continuing with the mission of AAPI, rose to the occasion and mobilized all possible efforts to support the needy,” said Dr Kishore Ratkalkar, Cahir of BOT, NJ Chapter of AAPI. “We are continuing to receive contributions from several members and, we shall be able to offer more help to those impacted by the tragedy. I urge the generous Indian American community to join in our efforts to help the victims of Turkey and Syria. we are asking the community for financial and material donations to help with the efforts that are likely to continue for weeks and months.”

During the Fundraiser, Turkish Physician, Dr. Vedat Obuz, who represents TASC gave an update on the current situation in Turkey. A Syrian physician, Dr. Haythem Albizem, who is the founder of Global Justice provided an update on the grave situation in Syria.  “There is a sense of panic, including among children. Many people, including children, are displaced and remain outside in streets and open areas. The government in Syria closed schools and universities for today and some are being used as shelters. The psychological impact on some people we met is grave,” UNICEF said in a statement.

Among those who participated at the event were Ambassador of Turkey Murat Mercan and Consul General of Turkey Rehan Ozgur. During his comments, the Ambassador Mercan said, “This is a unique and one of a kind of an event,” and appreciated the organizers “from the bottom of my heart for this great humanitarian gesture.”

Others who attended the event included representatives of JFK/HMH, President & Chief Executive, Amie Thornton, JFK University Hospital Vice President of Operations, Jaikumar Sreekanth, JFK University Hospital Regional Chief of Surgery HMH Dr Faiz Bohra, Foundation Executive Director JFK University Hospital Sheri Marino, and Frank Babar, JFK University Foundation Board Member. They announced stronger collaboration with the New Jersey State Chapter of AAPI. Sangeeta Malik, the coordinator of event who served as the master of ceremony was instrumental in raising funds by conducting the auction during the fund raiser.

“This event has helped in fostering a great sense of gratitude by the members of the Turkish and Syrian community towards the Indian American community for this great humanitarian gesture, as expressed by many in attendance at the fund raiser,” Dr. Hemant Patel said. According to him, the fund-raising committee members will soon be meeting the Ambassadors of Turkey and Syria to present the check, expressing their solidarity with the victims of the earthquake. For more details and to donate and many other noble initiatives of AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

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