Why a Calgary boy is raising money for earthquake victims

Izmir Kassam, 10, will walk a total of 100 kilometers to raise money for relief efforts in Turkey and Syria.  (Submitted by Shamez Kassam - photo credit)

Izmir Kassam, 10, will walk a total of 100 kilometers to raise money for relief efforts in Turkey and Syria. (Submitted by Shamez Kassam – photo credit)

For 10-year-old Izmir Kassam, it hit just on his own doorstep.

The day after his 10th birthday, the Calgary boy woke to devastating news – two massive 7.8 magnitude earthquakes, followed by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, had struck southern Turkey.

“It made me sad because thousands of people were without food, clothing, water, medicine or shelter,” Kassam said.

“They didn’t know what to do next.”

The death toll from the disaster has exceeded 40,000 and continues to rise. According to the United Nations, around seven million children are affected.

After seeing the struggle people in the area are going through, Kassam was forced to do something to help those affected.

running for a cause

He starts his fundraiser on Sunday. He laces up his running shoes and will run 10 kilometers every week for 10 weeks with the goal of raising $10,000.

The funds are being raised by the Humanitarian Coalition, an Ottawa-based nonprofit that brings together 12 Canadian international relief agencies in times of disaster.

Kassam says his personal connections further fueled his motivation to help.

“I was named after the city of Izmir in Turkey, and it happened on my birthday,” Kassam said. “I felt a strong connection and in general I really enjoy helping people.”

name on a card

While flying back from their honeymoon in France and Italy, Kassam’s parents saw a travel magazine with an ad about the city of Izmir.

Submitted by Shamez Kassam

Submitted by Shamez Kassam

Though he’s never been there, Kassam’s father, Shamez, recalls liking the look of the town. The name, he said, had a beautiful ring to it, it was unique, and he and his wife told each other that if they ever had a son, that would be his name.

“We thought it would be nice to choose a name that you can see on a map,” Shamez said.

“Sure enough, he came with me.”

Given that disasters like this are so far from Calgary, Shamez says he understands it’s easy to think they won’t affect people from this side of the world.

But he says he’s always believed in the importance of helping others and he’s proud of his son for realizing that.

“I think it’s great to make a difference in the world and he’s loved running since he was a kid,” Shamez said.

“We believe in service and that we are all connected and we try to do our best.”

Though he has a target number in mind, Kassam is hopeful he will surpass the $10,000 mark and said he would keep running even if he hits the goal before the 10 weeks are up.

“I don’t want to stop raising $10,000,” he said. “I want to try to raise as much money as possible.”


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