January 28, 2005
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
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
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.