As nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations and humanitarian groups rush to help with earthquake rescue and relief efforts in Turkey and Syria, one Syrian refugee-turned-restaurant owner in Tennessee has amassed over $188,000 and counting in donations.
After hearing about the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked northwestern Syria and southeastern Turkey, killing more than 20,000 people, Yassin Terou sprang into action to help on the ground.
The owner of Yassin's Falafel House in Knoxville -- which won the Reader's Digest Nicest Place in America accolade in 2018 -- traveled from the U.S. to Turkey on a mission to help provide food relief, medical care, fuel and shelter to those in desperate need.
Terou has provided updates at the scene on Facebook live with videos showing the barren camps where families are in need of basic essentials like blankets to stay warm and milk for their children.
"We have no blanket, we have nothing to warm up," Terou translated for a local man in the video. "This is what it looks like ... we have nothing."
Terou said "it's very sad seeing how people are living right now" in the shelter camps.
"There is a lot of need right here ... we're just doing everything we can and changing our plan one or two times a day because every time we do something they need more," he explained.
Before he left the U.S. to help, Terou told "Good Morning America" that his motivation was "helping people" who have been impacted "to keep building bridges of love between different communities."
Terou launched a digital fundraiser to start an emergency soup kitchen and offer medical care, with money going directly to two organizations: CelebrateMercy and Syria Relief and Development.
"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," Terou said.
Most of Terou's own family is still in Syria and one of his brothers is in Gaziantep, Turkey, where he is currently displaced from his residence as a result of the massive earthquake.
Last week ahead of his flight, Terou told "GMA" that Noor Ibrahim, a nurse from Knoxville who owns a medical training EMT company, had also joined him to volunteer on the ground in Istanbul and south Turkey once they have more information and supplies.
Upon starting his campaign for donations, Terou raised $60,000 in just 48 hours and has since surpassed his original goal, with donations continually pouring in as of the time of publication.
An earlier version of this story was originally published February 9, 2023.