By Pam Kiriakidis
A decorated dance studio filled with 60 people is how Zumba instructor Mike Thomas raised money to support victims of the Turkey and Syria earthquakes that hit earlier this month.
Mr Thomas, who teaches regular Zumba sessions in the Mitchell Shire, hosted a charity event at Push Fitness in Docklands, which raised more than $5000.
He said the donations would be passed to his friend and fellow Australian Zumba instructor in Istanbul, Turkey, which would then be sent to Turkish non-government organisation Ahbap Platformu Resmi Sitesi, AHBAP.
Mr Thomas said his friend who travelled to Turkey before the earthquakes had inspired the fundraiser.
“She’s very closely connected to the Zumba community in Turkey,” he said.
“We actually had quite a few Zumba instructors that were directly affected by the earthquakes, so we actually had quite a few instructors who lost their lives, and then also had family members who lost their lives.
“Because they were impacted, it was so close to home for us, so that’s why we thought we would really try as much as possible, and of course we were getting news constantly from our contacts in Turkey as to just how bad the situation was.
“It was urgent, they need the money quite urgently.”
Mr Thomas only had 10 days to prepare the event.
“In Turkey, they had a week of national mourning, they weren’t allowed to play any music, they weren’t allowed to do any dancing or anything like that,” he said.
“Even at the moment the mood is still very sombre, I just thought ‘we’re not in Turkey, but to respect them, we won’t hold a fundraiser during that mourning period’, and that’s why we held it on February 19.”
Mr Thomas said the Zumba community had contributed generously to the donation account before and after the official fundraiser.
“The feeling was, it was fantastic because it was really nice to know that people were so generous,” he said.
“We had people for example donating $500, I had one instructor who turned up [to the event] and she had collected $900 from her network of people, really amazing that people were so generous.”