UCL News


PM pops in to help UCL's students pack parcels for Turkey-Syria relief effort

9 February 2023

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made a surprise visit to UCL today to help our students pack clothes, blankets, tents and baby food, that are being put together in support of the Turkey-Syria earthquake relief effort.

PM Rishi Sunak thanks UCL students supporting the Turkey-Syria earthquake relief

On Monday, the UCL Turkish Society, supported by Students’ Union UCL, launched a fundraising campaign and collection drive to help the thousands of people affected by the massive earthquake, which has devastated families and communities living along the Turkey and Syria border.

A bake sale has raised more than £8,000 and a call out for priority items has led to donations of warm clothing, including hats and scarves, along with sleeping bags, pillows and tents. Essentials such as baby food, diapers, wipes, sanitary products and flashlights have also been received. 

As the students were boxing up the relief items, they got a surprise visit from the UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who had been so impressed by their Instagram campaign posts, that he wanted to help out and say thank you.

Eda Yildirimkaya, President of the UCL Turkish Society, said: “It was a complete surprise: the Prime Minister just turned up and said ‘you are doing a great, great job – we really appreciate your efforts’.

“He then asked about our friends and families back home and said his thoughts and feelings were with us at this time.”

The PM brought his own relief parcel, which he added to the students’ collection and then started to help pack some boxes.

“The Prime Minister spoke to lots of us, had some photos and stayed for around 30 minutes. I think we’re all still a bit shocked, but delighted he came to see us!”

In total the UCL Turkish Society has so far packed around 200 boxes and has booked three large delivery lorries, which will be loaded and dispatched to Turkey and Syria tomorrow (Friday).

UCL’s President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence, said: “I am so incredibly proud of our students for all their efforts in raising money and organising a huge collection of essential items – and all in such a short space of time.

“This reflects how much this dreadful tragedy has hit us all and how much we want to help wherever we can.

“The Prime Minister making a surprise visit just highlights the incredible work they’ve done – he clearly admired and appreciated all the time and energy they have put in to support the relief effort and communities affected.”

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday morning and more than 20,000 people are thought to have now died. Thousands more have been left without shelter, water, fuel or electricity.

Dr Spence added: "It is difficult to fully comprehend what people in Turkey and Syria are experiencing now. The loss of life and human suffering is utterly horrendous and our thoughts are with everyone in our community who has connections with the region and particularly those who are fearful for the welfare of family and friends.

“We will do everything we can to support those affected at this dreadful time and have been directly reaching out to them. We have support routes available for all UCL staff and students who are impacted by this."

UCL is providing support for students and staff affected by the Turkey-Syria earthquake. For more information go to: UCL Turkey-Syria support


  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits UCL to show his appreciation and thanks to students for their efforts to support the Turkey-Syria relief effort. Photos top left and right: Credit: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street on Flickr. Bottom left, the PM talks to UCL Provost, Dr Michael Spence, bottom right, group photo with UCL students.

Media contact 

Henry Killworth 

Tel: +44 (0) 7881 833274

E: h.killworth [at] ucl.ac.uk