Campus activities raise funds, awareness of tsunami relief-rebuilding efforts

by Brittany McCandless
Assistant News Editor

Amidst international response to the South Asian earthquake and tsunami, Carnegie Mellon University is taking its own initiative to provide relief for the victims of the natural disaster.
?We have a significant number of students who are from these affected areas, and there needs to be some kind of call to action,? said M. Shernell Smith, service initiatives coordinator of Student Development and housefellow for New House. ?There was no way in which we would have allowed classes to start on Monday without something happening on campus. That?s just how it is.?
Starting last Monday and running through the Martin Luther King Day celebration today, various individuals and organizations have set up a table in the University Center to collect monetary donations for relief and rebuilding efforts. The proceeds from the tabling efforts will be donated to the Brother?s Brother Foundation (BBF), a 47-year-old Pittsburgh-based international charity. According to Karen Dempsey, Director of Development for BBF, the organization has already provided over $8 million in pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and books to the tsunami victims.

Smith said that Student Development initiated the UC tabling effort as a way to raise awareness in a short length of time.
?I knew as soon as the letter went out from the President stating that we were doing tabling that I wasn?t concerned about who was going to run the tables by the end of the week. I knew what type of students we have here on our campus and the type of student organizations that we have and that service is a part of their mission,? said Smith, who has received a flood of e-mails in response to the request for volunteers at the table.
?I?m elated with the responses that I?ve gotten back from individuals and organizations on campus. Hopefully they?ll follow through with that.?

Last Thursday representatives from the Pittsburgh Sri Venkateswara Temple, Carnegie Mellon graduate student organization AID India, and BBF facilitated a panel discussion to reflect upon the impact of the tsunami and to discuss long-term campus relief activities.
During the discussion, panelists advised anyone interested in helping out with the relief effort to stick to well-known organizations. While the tsunami has ruined much of the infrastructure of the affected areas, Dempsey assured audience members that these organizations, such as the BBF, use air shipments to ensure their donations reach the victims.
Panelists also stressed continuing the relief effort on a long-term basis. ?Rebuilding efforts will take five, even ten years,? said Prabhu Ram Raghunumurr from the Sri Venkateswara Temple. Raghunumurr suggested that people interested in helping narrow their focus in order to see the greatest impact.
?Pick a village or a school in one of the affected countries and focus your donations and mobilization of supplies and volunteers there.?
?It?s almost already yesterday?s news,? said Sajid M. Siddiqi, a Ph.D. student in robotics and member of the Carnegie Mellon graduate student group AID India. ?It needs to be visible ? six months down the line, one year down the line ?? it needs to be commemorated.?

According to Smith, Student Development anticipates relief activities to continue throughout the semester. Student Development is currently creating a service resource website for Carnegie Mellon students that will list organizations? contacts and campus relief projects. Smith expects the website to be up shortly.
?[Relief efforts are] an opportunity for collaborations to happen across so many different lines ? religious and spiritual, racial, cultural, gender lines. It?s just about helping human beings,? said Smith.
In addition to the UC tabling, numerous groups are planning benefit activities. West Wing and Resnik and SDC organized a tsunami relief benefit pancake brunch on Sunday, the proceeds of which are also going to BBF. Proceeds from the School of Music?s January 27 performance of The Italian Girl in Algiers will also benefit the Carnegie Mellon relief-rebuild effort.

Student Development is also planning a dinner on February 14 to benefit the tsunami effort. The dinner will be held from 7 to 9 pm in Rangos. ?What?s uplifting is how much people are reaching out and helping out,? said Siddiqi. ?Humanity is showing the best of its faces in the new year.?

Anyone interested in performing or volunteering at the Student Development dinner can contact Mohana Rajakumar at