Knoxville Restaurant Owner Raises Nearly $160,000 For Earthquake Victims In Turkey And Syria

“I’ve always believed we are one world.”

Turkey Syria Earthquake

Aziz Karimov/Getty Images

A beloved Tennessee restaurant owner is among the aid workers helping with rescue and relief efforts in Turkey and Syria following a cataclysmic earthquake that claimed the lives of at least 23,000

Yassin Terou sprung into action shortly after learning that a 7.8-magnitude earthquake had rocked the Turkish-Syrian border early Monday. Terou, a Syrian refugee and owner of Yassin's Falafel House in Knoxville, immediately launched an online fundraiser.

“I’ve always believed we are one world,” Terou, whose family in Syria and Turkey survived the quake, told Knoxville News Sentinel. “Even if we are in a large world, we still are connected, and I always believe building bridges in the time of difficulty is the best to do.”

By time of publication, Terou’s fundraiser had brought in more than $157,000, far surpassing his initial goal of $20,000. The funds are going directly to two organizations: CelebrateMercy and Syria Relief and Development

“Something small for each one of us may be big things for them,” Terou told the News Sentinel. “A price of a cup of coffee can be a meal for a day or two for them.”

Today, Terou arrived in Turkey to help with aid efforts on the ground. He plans to travel to the border of Turkey and Syria and set up a soup kitchen. Noor Ibrahim, a nurse from Knoxville who owns a medical training EMT company, has also joined him to volunteer.

Terou, who has lived in Knoxville since fleeing Syria in 2011, is no stranger to natural disaster relief. According to the News Sentinel, he led similar fundraising efforts during the Gatlinburg wildfires in 2016 and again when tornadoes tore through middle Tennessee in 2020.

Speaking with Good Morning America, Terou said his motivation for helping people is "to keep building bridges of love between different communities."

"Our community has never disappointed me when we ask for help—but this fast response is showing the world who we are as an American people," he noted.

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