Students raise awareness of earthquake victims' needy situation

In the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Pakistan and neighboring countries on October 8, many are unable to grasp the enormity of the earthquake?s impact. The quake struck with a magnitude of 7.6; the Associated Press reports estimates from the Pakistani military that there are 40,000 dead and 62,000 injured. This earthquake?s magnitude was only slightly less powerful than that of the great earthquake that decimated San Francisco in 1906.

But some were still unaware of its impact. ?I didn?t even know about the earthquake until you [the reporter] asked me about it,? said Nick Hudson, a first-year music major. ?The only news I watch is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.?

Samiah Akhtar, the secretary of the Muslim Students Association, said, ?The people who know about the earthquake are the ones who keep up with the news. Sometimes college students are known for not knowing what?s going on. So, one of our goals is to raise awareness of what happened in the next few weeks.?

?People respond to the things that affect them the most. Katrina was more pertinent to many ... than the earthquake. I personally responded more to the earthquake because I have family there,? she added.

Mayur and the Muslim Students Association have been spearheading efforts to provide relief for the earthquake victims. They have been working with off-campus organizations, including local mosques and charities, and are coordinating on-campus activities including fundraisers with other student organizations. These activities are still in the stages of planning.

Many charity organizations are not expecting as extraordinary a reaction to the earthquake as there was to Hurricane Katrina because of the proximity of these two disasters. In addition, charities have also been responding to floods in South America that have killed hundreds. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, donations for Hurricane Katrina in a six-week span amounted to $1.8 billion. This amount was greater than donations after 9/11 and the South Asian tsunami catastrophe. A host of organizations, including the American Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services, have so far reported smaller donations for the earthquake in comparison to Katrina in the same amount of time.

Some student organizations, like the Asian Students Association (ASA), are not participating in relief activities for the earthquake. ASA?s president, Kristen Hwang, was heavily involved in founding K.A.R.E. (Katrina Aid and Relief Effort), which is actually contributing to relief efforts for the earthquake. ASA continues to support K.A.R.E. However, the ASA has to shift its focus to other activities.

Lu Zhang, the treasurer of ASA, detailed some reasons for not responding to the earthquake: ?We won?t be hosting or participating in any events intended for relief for the earthquake victims. Part of the reason is that November, which is recognized as CMU?s Asian Heritage Month, is fast approaching and we?ll be having the busiest month of the semester during it. Another reason is that we just completed a large event with the intention of raising money for Katrina victims.?

Often communication and coordination between campus organizations is sluggish. Zhang said, ?Certainly, for me at least, the most frustrating obstacle about organizing large events with many other student groups is the apparent division in our campus. We can see it through race, gender, culture, you name it, we have it. There?s just an overabundance of cliques, and I feel that ASA is always more or less classified as one such clique for Asians rather than taken as a serious student organization.?

Akhtar thinks that the pressures of time will outweigh group differences. ?There?s a sense of urgency for us to get going. More and more people are dying every day. Pakistan doesn?t have the resources to cope with a disaster of this scale.?