UCLA Community Joins Tsunami Relief Efforts (January 2005)

UCLA Community Joins Tsunami Relief Efforts

By David Kute

Epoch Times Los Angeles Staff

January 20, 2005

LOS ANGELES, Calif.- UCLA students and faculty are joining relief efforts to tsunami- stricken Southeast Asian countries. Various activities and speaker events that have begun and will continue over the coming months aim to improve the public’s understanding of the disaster and provide financial support to the rebuilding efforts.

University of California, Los Angeles’ student groups are teaming up to form a new umbrella organization called the UCLA Students for Tsunami Relief.

“After the news of the tsunami broke, someone sent out an email to get together on what we can do to help,” says Asia Pacific Coalition representative Seng Peng. “Everyone in the APC, which is made up of representatives from various Asian student organizations, got together to decide that we would try to raise $10,000 dollars.”

Another APC representative, Trinh Le, said that the organization was told that the best way for them to support relief efforts is through sending money, as sending supplies was simply not practical for UCLA students.

She said one fundraising event will be a school wide dodgeball tournament. Students from residence halls, campus organizations, as well as sororities and fraternities will participate in the early February tournament.

The UCLA International Institute, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and the Asia Institute will also be sponsoring a series of speaker events and a fundraising benefit.

“We felt a sense of responsibility to do something, and decided that our university was not the best to distribute water and healthcare but rather a deeper understanding of the crisis,” said Associate Professor Geoffrey Robinson, director of CSEAS.

The first of the events, a symposium titled The Tsunami and its Aftermath- Understanding and Helping, was held last week. Several faculty and guest speakers made presentations, including Robinson, who is an Indonesia expert, UCLA professor and India expert Vinay Lal, Operation USA President Richard Walden, and Alina Dorian, a senior program manager at the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters.

Robinson warned that the tsunami could “provide potential for a worsening of human rights” in Indonesia.

The next speaker event, titled the Role of NGO’s, is set for February 7.

An Evening of Music and Dance from South and Southeast Asia is scheduled for February 9. The event, sponsored by Motus Sodalis, CSEAS, and the Asia Institute, intends to forward proceeds to South Asian relief organizations.

Beyond the flurry of on-campus events, the disaster has seriously impacted UCLA students’ lives.

“The tsunami has had a tremendous impact on the UCLA community,” says Connie Charoonsrivasd, the president of the UCLA’s Thai organization Thai Smakom. “We have all been affected emotionally.”

The organization is working together with APC to increase fundraising. Although there are no reports of members of UCLA Thai Smakom who were directly hit by the tsunami, some Thai students families have suffered property damage.

“Attempts are being made to locate and contact members of the UCLA family who may have been directly affected by the tragedy,” wrote UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale in a message on the UCLA website.

“UCLA has many ties to this region of the world, and we want to provide whatever aid and expertise we can,” the message to the university community said.

One student felt that the tsunami’s disastrous effects were not limited to the ethnic South Asians alone.

“The region has always been very important to me,” said Irene Chansawang, who is majoring in Southeast Asian Studies. She said the tsunami has touched the hearts of many different people, including people who may not necessarily have any ties to Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asian students make up a considerable part of the UCLA population, and Southern California is home to some of the largest communities of Indonesians and Thais outside of Southeast Asia.