Group raises $2,500 for tsunami relief

A GW medical school fundraiser has collected $2,500 to aid Southeast Asian countries hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami, which has already claimed nearly 150,000 lives.

A second-year medical school student, Nipun Chhabra, organized the drive, which has benefited from more than 100 donations over the past two weeks. The money will be sent to the Red Cross this week.

“I really didn’t have expectations coming in but so far the response has been great,” Chhabra said. “Any help that we can get we appreciate because these people really need it.”

The fundraiser will continue to raise money to rebuild the nations battered by the killer wave and help support the thousands who have been left homeless, Chhabra said. GW’s Class Council and the GW Medical Center Student Council have promised to pledge money, and the medical school has arranged to send badly needed supplies to the area. In addition, Debra Brosnihan, a nurse at the GW Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, is a member of a volunteer unit helping tsunami survivors in Indonesia, a local NBC station reported.

Chabbra said he plans to meet with several undergraduate student organizations to arrange a similar fundraiser aimed at the undergraduate population. A table will be set up in the Marvin Center by next week to collect donations.

It has been more than three weeks since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean sent a towering wall of water on a collision course with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and a number of other Southeast Asian nations. The death toll stands around 149,540 and is expected to rise.

Tracy Schario, GW’s director of Media Relations, will not know if any students were lost in the natural disaster until people begin showing up for classes this week. Several colleges, including C.W. Post in Long Island, have reported students missing.

The International Services Office is in contact with parents and students to identify any members of the GW community who have been affected by the disaster, Student Activities Center Director Tim Miller said in an e-mail addressed to student organizations.

Miller said a Jan. 10 meeting of University officials determined that SAC will host a meeting “to help all interested parties pool their resources and create a campaign of sorts to support those most affected by this tragedy.” The meeting is slated to take place on Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom.

The tsunami has already affected one GW community member in the region. Janet Steele, professor of media and public affairs, was in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta teaching a journalism class to local pupils when the wave hit.

“The worst thing about being here right now is the feeling of helplessness,” Steele wrote in an article posted on GW’s website Jan. 5. “Everybody knows somebody who has lost friends and family, and in truth all of us are only a degree or two of separation away from unspeakable horror.”

In an e-mail to The Hatchet last week, Steele said the recovery effort was in full swing.

“People have really sprung into action here,” Steele wrote. “Most news organizations have set up humanitarian funds, and people are donating to them; in fact nearly all organizations have set up such funds.”

She added that relief efforts were finally reaching “all but the most remote villages.”

“There are still plenty of problems though, most importantly the lack of coordination between the government and the Indonesian military,” she wrote. Steele said anyone interested in donating to Indonesian humanitarian funds can research groups at www.usindo.org.

Claire Rubin, a research scientist at GW’s Institute for Crisis Disaster and Risk Management, said coordinating the relief effort may be the most difficult task in stabilizing the devastated region.

“The single greatest challenge is going to be the organization of the massive international recovery effort,” Rubin said. “No one country is in charge, no one organization, there is no response plan coordinating the distribution of recovery supplies that are pouring into the area.”

-Gabriel Okolski contributed to this report.

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