Livonia church bands together to help people in Syria, Turkey after deadly earthquake -- How to donate

Members of the Basilica of St. Mary Livonia church are raising money to help people in Syria and Turkey after an earthquake killed thousands.

Wafi Albarshini and his wife, Nesrin, are from Syria, along with many parishioners at their church. Now they are raising money to aid in earthquake relief efforts in Syria, a nation that has already been devastated by civil war.

"They're really in need for help. They're hurting, they're hurting, especially the kids and the older. Unbelievable situation," Wafi said. "It's just people living in the street for right now. Nowhere to go, no shelter."

"The basilica itself appealed to the people to start donating and gathering money," Samer Hanna said.

Hanna is a chemistry professor at Wayne County Community College and a deacon at the church. He still can't believe the extent of this natural disaster -- more than 12,000 have died in Turkey and Syria.

"As a scientist I know that's nature, but on the other hand I feel very sorry, very troubled, very shocked that people in the blink of an eye lost their relatives, their family, their babies," Hanna said. "Everything fell like a deck of cards."

Dr. Amelia Gallagher, the daughter of retired FOX2 reporter Bill Gallagher, is chair of Middle East and Islamic studies at Niagara University in New York. Her husband, Semir, is from Turkey. Their family homes were destroyed, but they're alive.

"We're fortunate. A lot of families just lost everyone," she said. "Our immediate family is accounted for - they all managed to escape, but we've lost cousins and friends."

Semir is now on his way to Turkey with other relatives to try to help their loved ones.

"They really feel like they had to go and rescue and help their own families because the army is just not there yet - with no water - basic necessities or shelter or tents put up," Gallagher said. "There's so many cities affected that it's just hard to get anywhere."

This is why aid organizations and churches are mobilizing, donating, and trying to help in any way they can - for a rescue, relief, and rebuilding effort that will likely go on for decades.

"This is going to go on for months and years. This rebuilding, there will be plenty of chance to give and to help," Gallagher said. 

There is a prayer vigil Friday at 7 p.m. at the church at 18100 Merriman Rd. in Livonia.

"Whatever you can give to the Syrian people helps - every penny counts," Nesrin said.

Ways to donate: