February 22, 2005

Students Raise Relief Funds

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Although the recent tsunami disaster in South Asia may have dropped out of the public spotlight, Cornellians have not forgotten about the victims. Student groups and involved individuals have been hard at work since winter break raising money and planning events to benefit the tsunami relief effort, which includes a benefit dinner at the Alice Cook House and a concert to be held in Barton Hall.

During the first week of classes, student volunteers braved freezing temperatures to set up tables on Ho Plaza to ask for donations. Fundraising during that week raised more than $3,700, half of which will be donated to the American Red Cross, and the other half to Habitat for Humanity International. In addition, the Student Assembly has approved donations of $400 apiece to each of these organizations from the Cornell Emergency Medical Services funds.

“We wanted to start off quickly, because we knew as coverage of the tsunami faded the donations would fade too,” said Eugene Ngai ’06, former director of operations for Cornell University EMS. “Now that the initial fund-raising is over, we are starting to give back by planning dinners and concerts,” Ngai added.

Rhea Chakraborty ’07 and Quynh Nguyen ’07, both members of the Alice Cook House Community Services Committee, have been hard at work planning the Tsunami Benefit Dinner, which will be held on Feb. 26 at the Alice Cook House dining hall. The dinner will feature South Asian fare, a raffle, Gamelan music and speakers. Attendees are encouraged to dress in South Asian clothing or semiformal attire.

Chakraborty and Nguyen have secured support from Cornell Dining as well as numerous local restaurants such as from Moosewood, John Thomas Steakhouse and Wings Over Ithaca. In addition, Prof. Eric Tagliacozzo, history, who specializes in Asian studies, will be giving a talk about South Asian culture and the effects the tsunami has had on the region. “One of the most important things we want people to remember is that just because the media drops an issue like the tsunami doesn’t mean it’s something to forget,” Chakraborty said.

Proceeds from the dinner will go to UNICEF, an international aid organization focusing on children.

Also in the works is the Big Red Benefit Concert scheduled for April 3. Danielle L. Inwald ’05, along with the Red Key Honor Society, Cornell Athletics and many other University and student organizations has been planning a concert that will consist of performances from 10 Cornell a cappella groups, 211 Entertainment and dance clubs such as the Shadows Dance Troupe and the Absolute Zero Breakdance Club.

“This concert is open to any group that wants to be involved,” Inwald said. “We will be planning the concert in creative ways so that we can fit all the groups in — we’re even thinking of having multiple stages with multiple groups performing at once,” Inwald added. According to Inwald, Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, has pledged between $10,000 and $12,000 from the University to fund the concert. In addition, the InterFraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association have agreed to sell tickets and organize donation competitions between the various houses. Concert organizers hope to sell approximately 5,000 tickets to fill Barton Hall.

When asked what kind of steps were being taken to ensure money raised from these events went directly to tsunami relief, organizers said that funds already donated have been earmarked for the South Asian tsunami relief, as would all future donations.

“Although you can’t specify exactly how the money is used, be it for food or medication, you can say where it should go,” Ngai said. “We have spoken to the different chapters of the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, and the money orders have been specifically marked to go to tsunami relief.”

Awareness of where charitable donations actually go has risen significantly after September 11th, when donations to the Red Cross were being used for programs unrelated to the relief efforts in New York City.

“All proceeds are going to help the tsunami victims — we’re making sure it gets to those who need it,” Inwald said.

Inwald encourages anyone who wants to help with the concert or get involved to send her an e-mail at dli2@cornell.edu.

Archived article by Dennis Dunegan
Sun Staff Writer