BU community joins tsunami relief effort
By Jessica Ullian
In the aftermath of the tsunami that devastated South Asia and nearby regions late last month, the BU community has launched several efforts to help all those affected by the disaster and to assist those from the University who may have been involved.
Having spent much of the past two weeks ascertaining that no students or alumni are known to have been killed or injured, University administrators are shifting their focus to the international relief effort. In a University-wide e-mail sent out on Friday, January 7, President ad interim Aram V. Chobanian announced that a Boston University Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund has been established for those who wish to make a contribution. The money, which will be collected by the Office of the Dean of Students and the Medical Campus Office of Business Affairs, will go to the American Red Cross to assist victims.
Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, who has worked with other University leaders to organize the drive, says that departments and groups are encouraged to think about coordinating their own fundraising efforts on a smaller scale.
“There’s nothing wrong with individuals moving around to say, ‘Hey, have you made your contribution?’” says Elmore. “If every one of us just gave a dollar, think about how much we could send to the Red Cross.”
At the School of Public Health, an overseas aid effort is under way. A team of alumni, working through the organization Circle of Health International, will be going to Sri Lanka to focus on women’s health relief efforts. Sera Bonds (SPH’04)), director of Circle of Health, will be leading the group of five SPH graduates and a trauma specialist from Boston Medical Center.
Boston University Academy has also contributed, setting out a donation box at its homecoming dance on January 7 and making its annual drama production into a benefit for tsunami victims. This year’s show, Our Town, takes place on Friday, January 14, at the College of Fine Arts. The students are also organizing a memorial concert, to be held on February 2 in Marsh Chapel, with the proceeds going to Oxfam America.
“The idea is just to be able to donate as much time and money as we possibly can,” says senior Larry Tobin, president of the BUA Student Council. “We have students who were distantly affected, and it made us realize how lucky we are.”
All parties involved emphasize the need to provide counseling and support services to faculty, staff, and students. Approximately 600 students currently enrolled at BU are from the regions hit by the tsunami, according to Urbain DeWinter, associate provost for international programs.
“We haven’t heard from anyone to date,” says DeWinter. “Naturally we’re eager to have them back at the University, and to provide whatever assistance they might need to resume their studies.”
The available resources, outlined in Chobanian’s letter, include the mental health and counseling clinic at Student Health Services, pastoral counseling and private prayer at Marsh Chapel, and resident assistants, who are on-call in each residence hall every day beginning at 5 p.m.
“I hope we’re fortunate enough to have it stay that way, that no one will have been injured or killed,” says Elmore. “Folks can certainly send their prayers and their support, whatever that may be. But folks need to know that this is tough. This is a truly tragic disaster.”
Additional information about relief efforts is available at www.usaid.gov/locations/asia_near_east/tsunami/.