In The Face of Disaster

Jessie Slenker

The scene of massive waves engulfing homes, streets, buildings and loved ones seems fitting for a motion picture, but almost realistically impossible. The December 26 tsunami, triggered by an undersea earthquake off Sumatra, caused unimaginable destruction with powerful walls of water crushing 11 Asian countries. Over 212,000 people are reportedly dead, 166,000 in Indonesia alone. Thousands of people are missing and millions are now critically threatened by disease and famine. This level of destruction and heartache is difficult to comprehend, but the interest expressed by the Colgate community to provide relief is not.

Numerous Colgate students joined together on January 16 at the ALANA Cultural Center to jumpstart relief efforts and brainstorm fundraiser ideas. A plethora of thoughts were proposed from a range of student body representatives, but a single issue was continually reinforced, which was that the University must step-up and do everything it can to aid those devastated by this disaster. Center for Outreach and Volunteer Education (COVE) Director Marnie Terhune led the Sunday night meeting and urged students to spread the word about campus relief projects. When she asked why Colgate students and faculty should help, replies ranged from “because the affected area is home to several Colgate students,” to “because we’re a rich school that needs to give back.” Fundraising ideas include a large-scale dinner banquet with proceeds going to the Red Cross, canned good drives, possible alumni functions, photo exhibits, a CUTV telethon, silent auctions and capitalizing on existing campus events.

Before any project is undertaken, specific goals for the Colgate relief efforts were outlined. “Obviously the immediate need is to raise as much money as we can to provide emergency assistance to those affected by the tsunami, but I hope this project goes beyond that,” Terhune said.

Spearheading these efforts are seniors Kaitlin LaCasse and Jeremy Neigher and sophomore Rob Dieringer, who have extensive plans and elaborate ideas to get the entire Colgate community involved. “I want to get involved with the relief efforts because I have been privileged with the opportunity to go to Colgate and to have gotten the education I have here,” Neigher said. “Most importantly, the reason I am doing this is because I have to… I cannot sit idly by and watch this horrific disaster and the millions of lives it has affected and not do my part. Colgate and its resources offer the perfect opportunity to help. I only hope that my effort can motivate others to take action and make this an incredibly successful event.”

This tragedy affected many Colgate students’ lives, which has inspired friends and colleagues to join the relief effort.

“I am from Pakistan, and although Pakistan was not affected, the disaster is very close to home,” junior Naveen Hussain said. “More importantly, it was close to the homes of many friends that I have made here at Colgate and in the United States.”

Efforts are currently in the beginning stages of development, but word is already spreading quickly around campus concerning ways to help.

“We’re creating a buzz,” said Dieringer. “This effort is going to be so large that we won’t be asking who is helping; instead, we’ll be asking who isn’t helping.”

Students met again on Tuesday night with Robert Ho Professor in Asian Studies and Professor of Music Emeritus William Skelton, who was passionate about getting efforts underway at Colgate. He urged the entire Colgate community to join together and give generously. This sentiment was matched by every student in attendance. “I want to see a massive effort campus-wide and I want the faculty and alumni to respond accordingly,” Neigher said.

This undertaking relies on the heart and determination of Colgate to make it work. Donating time, money, food, clothes and other resources to the relief fund is very easy.

“If we are to do all the things we brainstormed and do them well, we will need many, many hands,” Terhune said. “If students are interested in working on a particular project, they should email the COVE. While students and groups are free to do as they wish, we hope that anyone raising money will utilize the COVE gift account, so that we may track the University’s progress as a whole.”

Flyers are being posted around buildings and dorms advocating donations, blogs are in the works and groups are already hosting fundraisers. The first event is this Saturday night at Delta Upsilon, where the Brothers organization will donate all cover charges to charity.

“I would ask that they deposit the money through the COVE office,” Terhune said, “and we can get the funds to whichever agency they determine to be the best. Any donations made without a specified cause will go to the Red Cross and UNICEF tsunami relief funds.” No matter how students and faculty donate, the relief effort will allow the community to extend its boundaries and realize the nature of the disaster at hand.

“I want the Colgate community to at least be aware of what is going on in that region of the world,” Hussain said. “I hope that students and staff, as well as faculty, discuss these issues in class and be involved in the relief effort not only financially, but also intellectually and emotionally.”

For all of those students interested in helping, there will be another general meeting at 7 p.m. this Sunday at the ALANA Cultural Center.