Thursday’s Tsunami Relief Day on the mezzanine was, by all accounts, a big success.
The day’s events brought together many student groups who wanted to contribute any way they could towards helping people in the regions devastated by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami, which has killed 175 thousand people to date, and left countless others homeless.
The CSU organized Tsunami Relief Day to provide a forum for all the various student groups and associations that came forward at the start of the semester ,wanting to do something to help with the relief effort.
Kathleen was there on behalf of Amnesty International. “We were asked to be here today to provide information about human rights issues that have to do with the tsunami, and issues involving the relief work going on in the area,” she said, adding, “I’m glad to see a lot of people out. It looks like they’re collecting a lot of money, and hopefully it’ll keep up.”
“We’re shaving heads and donating the money to the tsunami relief,” said Yoni Lehrer, clippers in hand, who was busy giving haircuts for Hillel Concordia’s Shave (CCAS) to Save fundraiser. “People are volunteering to shave their head and people are donating money to see their hair get shaved,” he said.
“This morning we had a guy with a huge head of hair, HUGE, and he made some money. It looked like he had at least three years of growth,” said Lehrer. “His friends stood around and laughed, but they’re all happy he did it. It’s good to see a lot of people having fun and raising money for a good cause.”
Louis Abi Habib, VP Cultural of the Lebanese Student’s Association, was on hand collecting funds and distributing Lebanese chocolates, as well as a flyer showing the impact of the disaster in numbers. “We find that Concordia is a very good example of how the world is functioning today. For once we can actually say that the world has come together in the face of a real disaster,” he said.
Abi Habib stressed that the future of the region is where the focus should be. “It’s not only about relief aid, it’s also about future development and rebuilding. That’s very important and I think everyone should be aware of that.”
He was pleased the CSU was earmarking the funds raised for medicine and rebuilding in the ravaged areas, and hoped the outpouring of concern for the victims of the tsunami would translate into something permanent. “I think this should establish a precedent and a standard to which the international community should abide by for all future and current humanitarian disasters,” he said.
The Concordia Canadian Asian Society’s (CCAS) President, Kimberly Kwo, was soliciting contributions from passers-by. “Almost everyone I’ve approached has donated,” she said. “It’s also great that so many associations from different nationalities decided to come together and unite, just like the world is doing right now.”
In addition to the bubble tea they were giving out, the CCAS also invited a group of breakdancers to help promote the day’s events. While catching his breath, Nicholas Lagopoulos explained that he was happy for the chance to contribute. “I saw the coverage [of the disaster] on T.V., and then some of my friends who are involved with breakdancing told me about dancing to raise some money,” he said. “Some of us are a little shy, like myself, but because it’s for a good cause, I don’t mind.”
Cassandra Bajan was raising funds for the CSU campaign on behalf of CONMUN, Concordia’s Model United Nations. “Because we’re an organization that has an international goal, we decided that it was necessary for us to participate and get in on helping out the Concordia Student Union and the student’s association in raising money,” she said. “We approached the CSU and decided we wanted to be a part of the $20 thousand mark and we went for it.” CONMUN members have also been volunteering at the CSU fundraising tables around the school since the drive began.
The Artist’s Collective also offered their skills to the fundraising efforts. Sunomi Tanaka was drawing portraits to raise money for the fund. “I don’t have friends there, but it’s not a lot of energy and hard work for me, so I thought it’s a good cause and I can help out a lot of people. It was really sad,” she said. “So many people died, I thought it was the least I could do to draw pictures.”
“I think it’s amazing,” said Lauren Teblum, the Student Union’s VP Finance and the CSU’s chief organizer for Tsunami Relief Day. She was very pleased with the contributions of the student groups as well as the response from the student body. “So many students were affected. Concordia is a multicultural university with students from all over the world, and that’s why it was something that may affect Concordia students more than others,” she said.
The fundraising drive has surpassed the expectations of its organizers, raising over $135 thousand combined since the start of the semester, including $27 thousand from the Administration through Marcel Denis, Concordia’s VP Institutional Relations. That figure will be nearly doubled by the Federal Government, which has pledged to match contributions received before Jan. 11.
The benefits for the victims of the tsunami are obvious, but Teblum believes Concordia as a whole will also benefit from the spirit of constructive cooperation that united the student population. “I think it was really important that everyone came together and worked together towards this goal.”