TezQuakeAid is bringing the Tezos community together to provide emergency assistance to the disaster-stricken regions of Turkey and Syria. Clovis McEvoy speaks with some of the organisers about the essential work they are doing, and how their organisation might serve as a blueprint for future campaigns.
On February 6th, two devastating earthquakes struck Syria and Turkey, and the Tezos community immediately sprang into action. Within 48 hours, a number of groups and individuals had coalesced to form TezQuakeAid, a grassroots fundraising body that’s harnessing the power of artists and collectors to provide direct aid to those affected by the disaster.
Thus far, the project has participation from over 500 artists who have minted some 600 artworks, raising over 91,000 ꜩ. It’s an innovative approach that has become emblematic of the Tezos community, with various stakeholders coming together to redirect the blockchain’s thriving art market to provide immediate aid on a global scale.
“The TezQuakeAid team consists of marketplaces, artists, collectors, and web3 galleries, all working together,” says Leo Shank, founder of the web3 gallery, XCOLLABZ, and one of the early driving forces behind the fundraising effort. “People are contributing their time to help with the process and we’ve been able to tap into all the necessary skill sets needed to make this efficient and effective.”
Taking full advantage of web3’s capacity for direct and transparent financial transactions, Leo says that the team managed to put structures in place and get funds to on-the-ground NGOs in a timeframe that simply would not have been possible in web2. “I think it took a day and a half, or two days tops, and we were able to mobilise, and commence the donation process,” Leo says.
That does not mean that there were not significant challenges, perhaps the chief of which was choosing which NGOs TezQuakeAid would donate to. Concrete poet and experimental typographer, Merchant Coppolla, has worked intensively to ensure that the donations go to the NGOs which fit the needs of the Turkish and Syrian people. Having previously helped organise Tezos fundraisers for Pakistan during the devastating flooding of 2022, and for the women’s rights protest movement in Iran, Merchant says that choosing the right NGOs is “one of the first milestones you have to reach” to make an effective impact.
“People from the affected region should have the first say in choosing which organisation they are comfortable with,” he says. “For the Turkish community, it was very easy, because there was a general consensus to give AHBAB the donations. Syria, however, was much trickier; there are sanctions, and it’s really hard to have stable connections to the people via the internet. So, we simply don’t have as many Syrian community members.”
After pre-vetting a number of organisations that were known to have dedicated earthquake funds, there was an internal discussion with Syrian members of the community before the team settled on the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation and Save the Children for their first round of donations.
Part of the team’s concern stemmed from having to navigate the international sanctions placed upon Syria’s regime, however, matters benefited from the fact that all of TezQuakeAid’s finances were open, transparent, and ultimately directed towards trusted NGOs. Award winning photographer and web3 artist, F. Dilek Uyar, says this approach stands in stark contrast to what she’s seen from the government in her native Turkey.
“There is no transparency,” says Dilek regarding the Turkish government’s response to the earthquakes. “But all the things in TezQuakeAid have been transparent; the money is going directly to the donation wallet. In my opinion, this is a great chance to educate people and show them how things can be done differently.”
“We are doing things that can become a framework for the future.”
— Leo Shank, founder of XCOLLABZ
With zero operating costs, open financial books, and 100% of donations going directly to NGOs, there are many things that TezQuakeAid is doing differently from its web2 counterparts. Perhaps the most innovative of which is the way that the team has tapped into Tezos’ pre-existing ecosystem of collectors and artists to offer a new way for people to help in a moment of crisis.
As Dilek puts it: “I’m not a rich woman, I don’t have much money to donate. I’ve given what I can to some foundations in Turkey but it’s not enough — so, if I can donate my art, if my art can be used in a way that helps people, it’s a great honour for me.”
“It took a day and a half, or two days tops to mobilise, and commence the donation process.”
— Leo Shank, founder of XCOLLABZ
The team is hopeful that TezQuakeAid will lay the foundations for a more permanent support system capable of rapidly responding to global issues. “Right now, we’ve been reacting quickly and adapting as we go because time is of the essence,” Leo says. “But we are doing things that can become a framework for the future. We have to think as human beings, rather than as citizens of individual countries, because next time it could be us, and we will need this support.”
The response to TezQuakeAid so far has been inspiring, but more help is needed. The news coming out of both Turkey and Syria is stark: more than 13 million people have been affected, 84,000 buildings have been destroyed, and the death toll now tops 41,000 in Turkey and 6000 in Syria.
“This is a great chance to educate people and show them how things can be done differently.”
— F. Dilek Uyar
“In these natural disasters,” Merchant says, “first you need immediate medical help, but then you have to shift to sanitation and shelter because one of the biggest threats is diseases that will arise from, for example, a lack of clean water.” Accordingly, TezQuakeAid says that they plan to regularly re-evaluate which NGOs they work with to ensure that the assistance provided matches the evolving needs of the people on the ground.
With two new earthquakes, measuring 6.4 and 5.8, hitting Turkey on Monday this week, the TezQuakeAid team emphasises the need to raise wider awareness of their efforts, to bring more artists, collectors, and volunteers into the campaign, and to continue raising funds as Syria and Turkey begin the slow process of rebuilding. “There are still many problems with tents, with temporary housing,” Dilek says. “This is not a short-term fight; this is a long-term fight.”
Artists and collectors who want to get involved, or those wishing to make direct donations, can find more information here.
Clovis is a New Zealand born writer, journalist, and educator working at the meeting point between music and technological innovation. He is also an active composer and sound artist, and his virtual reality and live-electronic works have been shown in over fifteen countries around the world.
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