In the wake of the recent tsunami that left substantial regions of Southeast Asia devastated, the UR community is reaching out to victims and students alike through several different initiatives.
The Dean of Students’ and Dean of the College’s Offices organized the university’s initial response over winter break with a team of faculty members.
“It was difficult for us to know what impact the tsunami would have on our own students,” Assistant Dean and Director of Study Abroad Jackie Levine said. “Many of our students come from the countries hit, but not the immediate areas. We came to the conclusion that we didn’t want a small group of non-students coming up with an idea of how to respond.”
One of the reasons that no major events have occurred yet in the aftermath of the tsunami is because the response will be a long-term project.
“With students just returning to campus, we did not want to tell different organizations, ‘You should respond in this way,'” Levine said.
“We thought it would be wonderful to have a student serve as an information clearing-house so students can develop a series of responses.”
Senior Jesse Bailey will coordinate student efforts.
“We are still in the planning stages, but there will be a memorial service in early February to honor those that lost their lives,” Bailey said. “Following the service, there will be a kickoff organizational meeting for fundraising efforts.”
“Most importantly, our efforts will cover the length of the semester and focus on raising funds for long-term reconstruction rather than short-term relief,” Bailey said.
“Past tragedies have shown a steep drop-off in international aid donations once the media shifts its focus. We are definitely in it for the long haul.”
In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, UR students from the regions impacted were sent a message from the International Services Office.
“We e-mailed students from countries that were directly affected to let them know that we were thinking about them,” Director of International Relations Cary Jensen said. “We also wanted to offer whatever services we could help them return if they were having trouble getting back to Rochester,” Jensen said.
An official e-mail was sent to students as they returned to campus to notify them of response efforts and inform them of on-campus resources for help, including the University Counseling Center, Interfaith Chapel and International Services Office among others.
“In the days after Dec. 26, the appalling news of the Asian tsunami spread, and the world tried to grasp the unfathomable scale of the tragedy,” the e-mail read. “Since then, all of us have been touched in some way. Our University community of students, faculty, administrators, and alumni spans the globe. We have family, friends and acquaintances who are natives of the region, or who have lived, worked, studied, or traveled in the affected areas.”
Several students were in the affected areas. “Once I got home to Malaysia I decided to go to the beach because Rochester was a bit cold,” freshman Balveer Singh said. “All of a sudden a lifeguard shouted for everyone to get out of the water because big waves were coming. We stayed behind a building to shield us from the water. I think that much of Malaysia was shielded by part of Indonesia. I’m fortunate and glad that this experience is over for me.”
Singh noted that Malaysia did not escape unscathed and that many fishermen were killed. He was proud to see the immediate response from across the world.
Junior Sid Parameswaran was at home in India but far enough inland not to see the tsunami. “I was personally unaware of the tsunami until I saw news reports,” Parameswaran said. “I haven’t personally been to see the devastation, as the authorities suggested that people stay away from the affected parts of the city so that relief and evacuation efforts were unhindered … The worst part of the tsunami in India, at least, is that it has definitely discriminated economically – most of the people who were hit were not affluent … fishermen have lost everything.”
Parameswaran is grateful for the outpouring of support from UR. “I think that the campus is strongly committed to fundraising efforts, and things will pick up once students settle in,” Parameswaran said. “I think a major goal is that organizations cooperate on this effort … [and] keep up a sustained effort.”
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