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Doing More For Southeast Asians

For many students at UCI, Jan. 26 passed as an average chilly winter Wednesday with an 85 percent chance of precipitation.
But for the members of the UCI Coalition for Tsunami Relief, Jan. 26 passed as the grim one-month anniversary of the recent Southeast Asian tragedy.
However, relief efforts have been ongoing since the quarter began, as Anant Sanchetee, the co-chair of the American Red Cross at UCI explained.
‘The Wednesday we got back we started events, [and] within two days we collected around $2000,’ Sanchetee said.
But as time wore on, a sense of apprehension gathered across UCI as students desired to band together to magnify relief efforts and really make a difference.
Many believe that there is power in numbers, and ensuing efforts proved this to be true.
This project came into fruition two weeks ago, when the UCI Coalition for Tsunami Relief was born. It featured 15 organizations including the Muslim Student Union, UNICEF at UCI, Amnesty International, Hindu Students Council, Americorps, IC Friends Club, Students for Peace and Justice, CALPIRG, the Social Science Ambassadors Council, Circle K, The Sound Collective, the UCI Volunteer Center, Middle-Earth Community Building Programmers and Mesa Court Council.
It is also important to note that relief efforts across the campus are not exclusive to coalition members. Many clubs and groups have been organizing their own relief efforts.
While the service groups on campus universally desired to aid tsunami victims, the idea for a coalition originated with CALPIRG, the public interest and environmental student volunteer organization.
Jamie Dow, the CALPIRG coordinator of the tsunami coalition, explained the goals of the coalition.
‘The goal was just to provide communication between all the clubs that were working together, and allow clubs access to resources they might not have by themselves,’ Dow said.
The efforts of the coalition culminated into the Tsunami Relief Week, held from Jan. 24 to 27.
‘Asia’s tsunami has united people around the world, and we’re seeing the same thing here on campus,’ said Edgar Dormitorio, director of the UCI Volunteer Center, in a press release to Today@UCI.
‘The effects of the disaster will be felt for years, and this one-month anniversary is a time for students to reach out to each other and the community with a reminder that the need is still great in those areas devastated by the tsunami,’ Dormitorio said.
Tsunami Relief Week witnessed the efforts of student organizations tabling, selling wrist bracelets and hosting cultural events to attract donations for the relief effort.
The high point of the week came on Jan. 26, the one-month anniversary of the tsunami.
The American Red Cross at UCI held a panel composed of Professor Francois W. Primeau, Professor Kamal Sadiq and Jamie Dow, followed by a candlelight vigil in honor of victims.
Primeau gave a brief overview of how tsunamis work.
As he explained, the wave travels across the ocean and begins to lose energy as it is forced to compress when approaching the shore.
‘The wavelength may still be kilometers when the wave hits the shore,’ Primeau said.
Sadiq briefly summarized the role that politics will play for the region in the relief effort. In particular, he highlighted the problems in divided areas, like Aceh in Indonesia.
‘If you need a military to escort and distribute clothes and food, you’re going to have a logistical problem,’ Sadiq said. ‘Plus people see the guards behind the relief and become wary.’
Furthermore, Sadiq claimed that relief efforts can be sabotaged by government corruption.
‘If you give a billion dollars, only 20 to 30 percent will reach the stricken areas,’ he said.
After the panel, students and professors moved outside for the vigil. Phung Pham, vice president of UNICEF at UCI, gave a short speech addressing students’ often competing responsibilities to their work and the world.
‘We’re [students] encased in our own little bubbles, too busy to pay attention to the problems that exist far far away from us, problems that are too remote for us to give a second thought,’ Pham said. ‘But it is not until a tragedy of great magnitude comes along that we put things on hold and we pause to think seriously and carefully about this world.’
After a moment of silence, the audience’s attention was turned to a performance of a traditional South Indian dance known as Bharatanatyam, performed by four UCI students: Indu Kannan, Nayani Vivekaandamorthy, Henna Zaidi and Pallavi Devaraj.
The four have practiced the form for nine years and felt their performance would help students understand the cultural context of those afflicted by the tsunami.
‘This dance is about Lord Nataraja, one of the gods known for his cosmic dance,’ Devaraj said. ‘Metaphorically, his foot and dance destroys evil and brings joy to the land.’
The vigil came to a close with the end of the dance. The coalition will continue its efforts to bring awareness about the tsunami’s victims to UCI and to reach its donation goal of $25,000.
With a current total of $16,000, thanks to a staggering $12,000 contribution from the Muslim Student Union, the goal is well within reach.
The coalition’s next meeting will be Feb. 3 at 1 p.m. in the Volunteer Center. Remember, there is power in numbers.