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Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

January 28, 2005

New MHC Organization Raises Funds
for Tsunami Relief Effort

Acting on their desire to reach out to the hundreds of thousands of people struggling to rebuild their lives in the wake of the devastating tsunami, a group of Mount Holyoke students has formed a new organization, MHC Collaborates, to orchestrate campus fundraising for disaster relief.

The group's main focus is to work with other campus organizations that have already planned events for the spring semester, to channel some or all of the proceeds of those events into aid for the survivors. The group, which has set a target goal of raising $15,000 -- slightly more than $5 per student -- by early summer, has also set up canisters across campus to collect donations, and has established an account to accept contributions.

MHC Collaborates is one of several ways that members of the Mount Holyoke community have responded to the devastation. The College and the Alumnae Association have made determined efforts to contact the 75 current students and 150 alumnae living in the affected areas. To date, there has been no report of any member of the College community having been directly affected. A memorial service for the nearly quarter-million victims of the tsunami, entitled "Reflecting on the Tsunami: Interfaith Service of Sorrow, Support, and Solidarity," has been scheduled for February 1 at 4:30 pm in Abbey Chapel. In addition, Donna Van Handle, dean of international students, organized a January 13 lunch for students to express their feelings about the disaster, and has been lending her support to MHC Collaborates.

Realizing that organizing its own series of fundraising events would conflict with other groups' plans, members of MHC Collaborates decided that the best approach would be to persuade the organizers to turn their planned activities into tsunami relief events, explained Parul Tyagi '07, who with Ann Jyothis Raj '05 founded MHC Collaborates.

"This is a great opportunity to really work together as a campus for a common cause motivated simply by goodwill," said Raj, who is from India. "The students participating in the relief effort will definitely learn a lot from this experience, and I am positive that the student members of the group, with the support of their colleagues and the administration, will be successful in reaching the target of $15,000." That amount, she added, would be enough to supply 11 new fishing nets to communities hit by the tsunami.

Tyagi, who is also from India, said the group decided to choose a single agency to support. Seeking an organization that is not tied to any particular political or religious group, does its work through true grassroots efforts, and is accountable to donors, the group chose Oxfam International. Oxfam, an international confederation comprised of 12 independent nongovernment organizations dedicated to fighting poverty and related injustice around the world, has been working in humanitarian disaster or emergency situations for over 60 years and is internationally recognized for its expertise in water and sanitation. "The most important part we can play at this time is making sure that the donations go to the right place for the right reasons," Raj said.

MHC Collaborates sprang from conversations among students who had been temporarily housed in Wilder Hall between the end of fall semester and the beginning of January Term. Between 45 and 50 international students found themselves together in Wilder on December 26, the day the tsunamis struck. "We couldn't take our eyes off the television, it was so traumatizing," Tyagi said. "We were sure that other people on campus would be thinking about doing something to help. We thought that fundraising would be most effective if people collaborated to seek logistical help and support from each other."

Tyagi said she hopes that as students return to campus for spring semester, MHC Collaborates will be able to secure the commitment of other campus organizations. Already, the group has raised $500 for disaster relief through a January 15 concert at Blanchard Campus Center performed by Sarah Icklan '05 and her band and organized by the band and the class boards. The group is also encouraging faculty members, staff, offices, and academic departments to make contributions to the fund.

Anyone who wishes to contribute to MHC Collaborates should send cash or a check payable to Mount Holyoke College to Donna Van Handle, Dean of International Students, Center for Global Initiatives. Donations will be accepted through the end of the semester, and a check will be sent to Oxfam International in early summer.


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