Prince William and Kate praise 'amazing' community for Turkey-Syria quake fundraising

Prince William and his wife, who was wearing a headscarf, met members of the Hayes Muslim Centre in West London

Britain's Prince and Princess of Wales, during a visit to the Hayes Muslim Centre in West London. PA
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The Prince and Princess of Wales visited a Muslim community centre on Thursday to thank “amazing” volunteers involved in aid and fundraising for survivors of the February 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Prince William and his wife Kate, who was wearing a headscarf, met members of the Hayes Muslim Centre in West London, where they heard harrowing stories from aid workers who had recently returned from the disaster zone.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which struck southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria, levelled thousands of homes and killed almost 53,000 people.

Volunteers from the centre, which helped raise more than £30,000 ($35,496) through collections and donations, described desperate scenes of rescuers battling to free trapped people using only hammers.

The couple heard that £18,000 of the £30,000 they raised was collected in just two hours after Friday prayers.

The princess said: “It's sad that there's a need to do funding — it's amazing there are communities like this here raising [funds].”

The couple removed their shoes during the visit to the centre, which is used as a resource for the wider community, providing cultural, sporting and educational events, as well as a mosque.

Islamic Relief aid worker Salah Aboulgasem told the couple about the hardships working on the ground in Syria and Turkey, which he has visited regularly in the past four weeks. He also spoke about how a Syrian schoolgirl died due to a lack of co-ordination.

He told them about the rescue attempts he had witnessed, saying: “They're hearing voices underneath and they're hammering at concrete — you're working but you know you're not going to achieve anything but you continue to do so.”

The aid worker added: “Across the border we rescued a young girl, there was jubilation — a nine-year-old girl. We then put her into the ambulance waiting.

“For 45 minutes there was a road jam because there was no co-ordination — she died in the ambulance. And that just puts into perspective the absence of infrastructure, compounding struggle upon struggle, and the long-standing humanitarian crisis that exists in Syria.”

Prince and Princess of Wales visit communities raising funds for victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria — in pictures

During the visit Prince William asked if lessons were learnt from events like the earthquake, saying: “Do we get better and better at this so each time, unfortunately, one of these things comes along we're quicker, we're slicker, we get aid to places better — is there a learning process?”

Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), replied that his organisation was not just a “fundraising platform” and best practice was shared across charities so they learnt from each other.

In a lighter moment, the couple joined two schoolgirls who made hundreds of origami cranes to raise funds for the appeal — and guided the royals as they created the birds from paper.

The visit came as it was announced that DEC’s Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal has raised £121 million since its launch four weeks ago.

The money raised by the DEC, which includes donations from King Charles, Queen Consort Camilla and the Prince and Princess of Wales, is being used to provide emergency shelter, medical care, hot food, blankets, clean water and safe spaces for children in Syria and Turkey, where many people still live in tents.

The couple met partner members of the DEC Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal, which included Save the Children, Islamic Relief, Action Against Hunger, Age International and the British Red Cross.

They also met other communities who have made considerable efforts to fundraise as part of the appeal, including the Turkish Women's Association, an organisation from Richmond which partnered with a local community and a number of schools to raise more than £10,000.

Updated: March 09, 2023, 3:07 PM