April 12, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 14

current issue
archive / search

    SASA aids earthquake victims while planning cultural show

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    Students who are members of the South Asian Students Association recently presented their annual cultural show with a performance in Mandel Hall. The group, which had been planning the show since the beginning of the year, was distracted from rehearsals when an earthquake shattered the state of Gujarat in western India. Putting the show planning on hold, the group quickly organized a fund-raising effort that raised $8,200. Other student groups involved in the effort were the South Asian Law Students Association and Asian American Students for Christ.

    Members of the South Asian Students Association were in the midst of planning their annual cultural show when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake shattered the state of Gujarat in western India on Friday, Jan. 26. While national governments and organizations continue to donate funds–former President Bill Clinton visited India last week delivering $50 million–students and faculty at the University pooled their resources within days and collected over $8,000.

    “The following Monday we were at a board meeting trying to decide what to do, how to help, when a grad student, Mridul Mehta, came to us with the idea to raise money on campus,” said third-year Bhumi Patel, SASA treasurer.

    Within 24 hours, the student organization had permission to set up tables in the entrances to campus buildings. “I really thought we would have to sell something at the tables to get attention, but instead we just decorated shoeboxes and asked people to please donate,” Patel said.

    She said organizing quickly was the key to the generous outpouring of help on campus. “The earthquake was all over the news, so it was on people’s minds,” said Patel, noting that students, many of whom she had never met, volunteered to raise funds. “And it took so little effort. All we had to do was sit at tables, and everyone has an hour or two between classes. So many people gave willingly.”

    In just over a week, the members of SASA, with help from the South Asian Law Students Association and the Asian American Students for Christ, raised $8,200. The funds were sent to India Development Service, a Chicago-based non-governmental organization that supports economic and social development in India.

    Patel said by donating to IDS, students were assured that the money would go directly to India’s earthquake relief effort. Chicago students sent the largest donation that IDS received from a university.

    In appreciation, IDS arranged for a screening of Bawander (Sandstorm) at Doc Films on the last day of Winter Quarter. A question-and-answer session with the director, Jagmohan Mundhra, and actress, Nandita Das, followed.

    At the beginning of this Spring Quarter, SASA members shifted focus to their annual cultural show. Students performed Saturday, March 31, before a sold-out crowd in Mandel Hall.

    “Before this, we really didn’t know how to organize quickly. And although I hope we never have to raise funds for something like an earthquake again, we know now that we can do it, that we can make a difference and that people are willing to help,” Patel said.