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Student relief efforts continue to help tsunami victims

March 4, 2005

By Marisa Long

Standing at the College Gate on a cold January day at the beginning of winter quarter, Adrian Budiman and other student volunteers came together in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami on Dec. 26 in the Indian Ocean and collected donations for the relief effort.

Budiman, of Jakarta, Indonesia, is a doctoral student in the School of Telecommunications. He said the tsunami brought Ohio University students, especially Indonesian students, and the community together to reflect on the tragedy and take action to help.

"As the news unfolded, the Indonesian students at Ohio University conducted an emergency meeting to organize an action plan to provide relief for the Aceh province in Indonesia that was hit the hardest by the tsunami," Budiman said. "We realized that food, shelter and emergency medical supplies were urgently needed to care for the hundreds of thousands whose homes and livelihoods have been wiped out by the disaster."

Budiman and members of the Southeast Asian Studies Association and the Indonesian Student Association quickly took an active role by forming the "Aceh Tsunami Disaster Relief Project." The project included collecting donations at various outdoor locations across campus and holding a fundraising dinner with all proceeds going directly to Nurani Dunia, an Indonesian humanitarian organization that has been involved in development and assistance in North Sumatra. The organization, which was co-founded by Ohio University Professor Elizabeth Collins, has access to the Aceh region and distribution networks.

"We are raising funds to help meet the needs of people and to help them rebuild their communities," Collins said. "We place special emphasis on funding participatory development projects that help communities rebuild their schools, and we focus on children so that the tsunami will not destroy the hopes of the next generation."

To date, more than $30,000 has been raised for the People to People Aid in Support of Nurani Dunia, a 501(c)3 foundation based in the United States that benefits Nurani Dunia, and donations still are being accepted.

Ohio University has nearly 1,100 international students with more than 250 students from countries affected by the tsunami. Many Ohio University students and faculty have friends and family in the region as well. Budiman said he and other Indonesian students felt helpless by being half way around the world when the tsunami hit. They became motivated to take action.

"We can relate to the people affected by the tsunami and many of us were also affected. We have had trouble dealing with what happened," Budiman said. "Helping even one family comforts us."

Other student groups and community members also joined the effort to raise money for various relief organizations.

The "Tsunami Help Athens Fundraising Dinner," which was organized by Athens resident Hilarie Burhans with the help of community members and student groups, raised more than $18,000 for various charities. About 500 people attended the event, which featured Asian-inspired cuisine prepared by local chefs, a silent auction of donated goods and services and performances by local musicians.

"One Dollar, One Hope" was an initiative that raised $2,232 for UNICEF. More than 60 student volunteers from the International Student Union and other student organizations stood at outdoor locations across campus to ask Ohio University students and employees to donate $1 each.

Marisa Long is a writer with University Communications and Marketing

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