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Swift response to tsunami disaster

Efforts underway across the campus

The need to help victims of the devastating tsunamis that swept across the Indian Ocean just after Christmas is galvanizing the Dartmouth community. Donation boxes have been set up in public spaces and offices, the Tucker Foundation is coordinating a tsunami relief fund to facilitate direct giving to recognized relief agencies and students, faculty and staff continue to develop events and initiatives aimed at harnessing the desire to provide aid to the affected nations.  

Lee Witters
Lee Witters speaking at the January 6 event (photo by Joe Mehling '69)

"I was impressed to have e-mails over the holidays asking what we can do," said President James Wright at a January 6 Alumni Hall gathering in honor of the tsunami victims. "Students have stepped up through fraternities, sororities and other groups. The Board of Trustees has joined Susan and me in affirming our endorsement of your efforts by making our own commitments for recovery."

Plans for the gathering took shape over the holiday break. The day the College reopened, a meeting was held to develop ongoing initiatives. "Collis 101 was filled with people committed to making a meaningful contribution to the areas of the world which have been afflicted," said Julia Hildreth '05, President of Student Assembly. "I helped organize a meeting for student leaders to brainstorm plans for the relief effort the day after that. The room at the Tucker Foundation was packed, despite short notice, and many groups had already made initial plans," she said.

Other speakers at the Jan. 6 event included Eugene W. Leonard '21 Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry Lee Witters, who thanked Wright for "his stewardship of the heart of Dartmouth." 

"We all wish to do something to alleviate the suffering we have seen, but we must equally learn from it," said Witters, a physician who is involved in the Dartmouth Initiative in Global Health and Healthy Development and teaches about the politics of starvation. Recognizing the need for sustained and ongoing humanitarian efforts, he asked, "Will we gather again as a community in 6 months, 12 months, or 5 years?"

Virginia Rice Kelsey '61S Dean of the Tucker Foundation Stuart Lord picked up the challenge, noting that this gathering would be the first of many. "This is merely a commencement of the tasks before us, as a body of those resolved to bring our part of the relief effort to reality," he said.

Rukman De Silva, a Sri Lankan graduate student in the Chemistry department, said, "the social impact of this crisis is unspeakable; there is a generation of children without parents and parents who have lost their children. I haven't met a single Sri Lankan who has not lost [someone] in this disaster."

As part of its coordination of Dartmouth's tsunami relief efforts, the Tucker Foundation has established a Tsunami Relief Web site. The site includes links to relief organizations and news sites, as well as information for student groups who want to help.

Dartmouth students can make individual financial contributions via DA$H card at Collis. Meanwhile, the Dartmouth Coalition for Global Health, a new organization that bridges the Dartmouth Medical School and the undergraduate college, has appealed to the community on behalf of relief efforts.

By LAUREL STAVIS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08