Shouq Alomar, 3, right, and her cousin, Ghazal Daaboul, 11, stack dominoes Sunday night before dining at the Community Eid Potluck for Earthquake Relief at the University of Maine in Augusta. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — Basil Alomar recalled the rainy, cold morning in February when an earthquake ravaged his home in Turkey.

About two months after the tragedy, Alomar said much help is still needed.

Alomar spoke Sunday night at the Community Eid Potluck for Earthquake Relief at the University of Maine in Augusta. The event, a collaboration involving UMA, the New England Arab American Organization, Capital Area New Mainers Project and Partners for World Health, was an opportunity to raise awareness of and money for the earthquakes that killed more than 60,000 people in Syria and Turkey.

Alomar told of his experiences in the earthquake-stricken area of Turkey, using his brother-in-law, Mohammed Alnaimi, as a translator. Alomar arrived in Maine 15 days ago and was reunited with his wife and daughter, who were already here.

“I wish if anyone can help with anything they can, to do so, because they need it,” Alomar said.

Alomar was one of a few speakers who spoke in front of the well-attended dinner meant to help spread information about the earthquakes and ways that people in Maine can help, even if the nations are almost 5,000 miles apart.


Guests choose from Tunisian fish cakes, vegan chili, a Syrian lamb dish with rice and other foods that were were shared Sunday night during the Community Eid Potluck for Earthquake Relief at the University of Maine in Augusta. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Eid is a three-day holiday Muslims celebrate at the end of the monthlong fasting period — Ramadan — and Kristin McLaren, a member of the diversity council, organized the event with a former student, Aaminah Aleem.

“We have had students impacted by the earthquakes and we thought, what better way to celebrate Eid — typically the time to give to charities — than to partner with programs (in the area) to support the earthquake and regions that were impacted,” said McLaren, who is the postdoctoral scholar for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Aleem is on the board of the Capital Area New Mainers Project with Chris Myers-Asch, who spoke at the event and explained that many of the families settled in Augusta are Syrian and have connections to the northern region of Syria, where the earthquake hit.

Aleem put on the event to raise money for those in need and offer a cultural event at UMA.

“It feels great to finally be able to do this at UMA,” she said, adding her excitement at being able to “celebrate” Eid “and educate people” about the holiday.

Aleem estimated there are 100 families in the Augusta area who benefit from the Capital Area New Mainers Project, which helps them integrate into life in Maine.


McLaren and Aleem are on The President’s Council Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which was put together by the university to learn how to better support the diverse cultures on the University of Maine at Augusta.

Warda Daaboul, left, Karen Knox and Fran Falcone visit Sunday night before sharing supper during the Community Eid Potluck for Earthquake Relief at the University of Maine in Augusta. Knox says she is part of the support family for Daaboul of Syria. Falcone says she was also part of a support family for a person from Syria, through the Capital Area New Mainers Project. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The co-chair of the council, Pamela Macrae, said UMA is committed to “making gains” in the areas of diversity and inclusion, and to making the university a welcoming place for everyone.

The money raised at the potluck supper is to go to Partners for World Health, an organization in Portland that is helping to fill a shipping container to send medical supplies to the Turkey and Syria regions affected by the earthquake. If $10,000 is raised by the community, the nonprofit will match it.

Elizabeth McLellan, the founder of Partners for World Health, said the organization sends out two shipping containers a month, on average, that weigh about 30,000 pounds and hold about $250,000 to $300,000 worth of medical supplies.

McLellan, a nurse, started the nonprofit organization when she realized medical supplies were being thrown out. She now collects some of those medical supplies and provides them to those in need.

She told those at the potluck summer that what they were Sunday night — “raising funds for the medical shipping container to be sent to Syria and/or Turkey” — could lead to a $10,000 match in the coming week weeks.

“It’s plenty of money to ship those containers and make sure they get sent to the right place,” McLellan said.

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