Rally for Tsunami Relief
By Elizabeth Pierdominici
A wave of support flowed through the campus on Wednesday as students united in a two-mile walk-a-thon to raise awareness and funds for victims of the South East Asian Tsunami disaster.
The walk-a-thon is only a ripple in the overall tsunami student relief project that runs from Jan. 26 through Feb. 9. Future events include presentations from experts on natural disasters, first-hand accounts of the tsunami and other fundraising events.
The University acts as a third party in a contract with Americare, UNICEF and the Red Cross. The money that is collected will go to a separate account at Student Activities.
Hofstra Unites for the Globe (H.U.G.) is striving to "work for all mankind" to ensure success for this relief project.
"The most important thing is to work with your community during a time of tragedy," Kim Rhyan, graduate assistant to the Office of Student Activities, said. "Learning compassion is just as important as learning anything else in school."
The walk began in the Student Center Theater with a brief overview of the effects of the tsunami and the needs of the victims.
Provost Dr. Herman A. Berliner spoke about his initial surprise of the tsunami and his view of the efforts.
"I believe that the relief should have a two-fold outcome," he said. "First, there should be a short-term aid for immediate needs such as food and shelters that will help the victims rebuild their lives. Second, there needs to be a long-term effort that will aid in future disasters. We have the technology that makes us aware within two hours of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Those two hours were crucial and if acted upon, could have allowed for more survivors."
Participants walked two miles to symbolize the approximated distance the fatal waves came inland in South East Asia. Nine flags were available for students to commemorate the 12 nations that were devastated by the tsunami. As the walk proceeded from the Student Center through most of the north side of campus, participants proudly carried the flags as a symbol of peace and hope.
Kathleen Hunker, a junior history and political science major and Student Government Association (SGA) senator, has worked to provide the student body with opportunities to help the tsunami victims. She viewed the monetary value of support equal to campus awareness as an initial way to contribute to the relief and saw positive outcomes on a national and international level.
"I was glad to see the action taken by our government," Hunker said. "It was refreshing to see that there was something beyond petty partisanship. Also, seeing how other governments are getting involved, I saw that globalization can have good effects."
From an environmentalist's perspective, Meaghan Baldwin, a senior environmental resources major, hopes for better emergency systems for the Indian River and surrounding area.
"I hope that students will take advantage of these opportunities to help out and that we will be better prepared for future disasters," she said.
Although Ahmed Mostafa, a senior accounting and mathematics major and vice president of SGA, did not have direct ties to any of the victims, he still felt a personal conviction to help those in distress.
"I look at the people impacted as part of my global family," Mostafa said. "There is a popular Muslim belief that I hold: 'when the toe hurts, the whole body aches'. Therefore, we are all affected to some extent."
Following the walk, the offices of the Interfaith Center held a memorial. Muslim, Jewish and Catholic chaplains offered words of encouragement and prayers for the victims of the tsunami.
"One of the most positive aspects of this relief effort is that people are realizing we are not alone and that we are all responsible for each other," Sister Kathy Riordan said.
In a letter written to SGA President Heather Gibbons, President Stuart Rabinowitz said the University will also make a contribution to the relief effort.
"This is a great cause and I'm happy to be a part of the Hofstra relief effort," Adam Doyno, a junior political science major said. "I hope we can raise enough money to make a difference in the relief and rebuilding process. I strongly encourage all members of our community to participate in this cause and lend whatever support they can."
© Elizabeth Pierdominici