Trinity student Read Holman meets APO volunteers Ann Logue and Griffin Lenoir at a table collecting donations for tsunami victims.
Winter break is an opportunity for college students to spend a little time with their families, a lot more time with their friends, and generally unwind after frantic weeks of final exams and term papers. But the earthquake and tsunami that hit South Asia late December changed all that, as many Trinity students found themselves consumed in coordinating relief efforts for the catastrophic natural disaster.
The pictures of the devastation and the stories of the human tragedy were a call to action for five Trinity students. Any plans they may have had for their time away from Trinity were quickly postponed as they worked to help the tsunami victims.
For Simran Singh, a junior from San Antonio, the tsunami tragedy “was almost incomprehensible.” He soon contacted University Chaplain Stephen Nickle about organizing a candlelight vigil for the start of the new semester. His plans were to have an event that would bring the Trinity community together in the wake of the tragedy and to encourage donations for tsunami relief. As Mr. Singh started planning the vigil, he received an e-mail from Danny Hosein, a sophomore from Friendswood, Texas.
“I was very upset about it. My family has roots in India,” said Mr. Hosein. He also learned a close friend had been visiting an Indian beach one day before the deadly wave hit. He said he felt a need to reach out to other Trinity students, so he sent a mass e-mail to several friends who were members of different student organizations at Trinity to start a student relief drive. His efforts paid off as he was contacted by Mr. Singh; Bryan Henderson, a senior from Artisia, N.M. and president of the Association of Student Representatives (ASR); George Ross, a senior from Santa Fe, N.M. and vice president of ASR; and Rathi Martinez, a junior from Schertz, Texas who is vice president of Trinity’s chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA).
Father Dan Suciu, pastor of St. Sophia's Orthodox Church (L), receives a check for $10,000 to help the vicimt's of last month's tsunami tragedy. Next to Father Suciu are Trinity student's Simran Singh, Danny Hosein, George Ross, Vice President for Student Affairs Gage Paine, Bryan Henderson, and Rathi Marzinez. The check will be given to the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a non governmental organization. All proceeds will be used by the IOCC in tsunami relief.
The tsunami had taken a personal toll on Ms. Martinez. Several members of her extended family lived in India and had died in the tragedy.
The five students began trading e-mails and planning a united student relief effort – even though the semester had not yet started, they had not worked together before and, in some cases, barely knew each other. As Mr. Singh worked on the vigil, Mr. Hosein worked on getting volunteers to go door-to-door asking for donations in the residence halls and on setting up donation tables in the Coates Center and Mabee Hall. Mr. Henderson worked with different University offices and on campus businesses so donations could be made using Tiger Bucks, the student electronic debit accounts. He would also be in charge of accounting for all the donations. Mr. Ross worked with the Greek organizations on campus as they planned a benefit fundraiser in the Tigers’ Den. And Ms. Martinez worked with AMSA to make health kits to send to the tsunami ravaged region.
During the planning, Ms. Martinez told the others she was working with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), which is a member of InterAction, a coalition of U.S. based non-governmental organizations that carry out humanitarian assistance overseas. The IOCC would take the health kits and send them to the crisis stricken region. While the Red Cross, UNICEF, and Doctor’s Without Borders could no longer guarantee that all donations would be used to help tsunami victims, the IOCC assured Ms. Martinez that all funds would go to tsunami relief. The students agreed that IOCC would be the recipient of Trinity’s donations. The group had set a goal to raise $5,000 by the end of January.
As the days passed, the five main organizers were surprised and thankful for all the support they received. “The coolest thing was that everybody just came together,” said Mr. Singh. “I’ve been involved in lots of similar events on campus, and I never seen everybody so willing to help out. Everybody was asking me or Danny or Bryan, ‘what can we do to help?’”
The candlelight vigil was held on Jan. 12. Mr. Singh had asked Mr. Hosein, Mr. Henderson, Ms. Martinez, and Dr. Brazil to speak during the half hour service “It came together really well, we had an immense student turnout at the vigil. Rev. Nickle said between 300-500 students showed up,” said Mr. Hosein. Trinity students donated $1,200 during the vigil.
The other fundraising efforts were also very successful. According to Mr. Henderson, $3,000 was raised from collections taken at the residence halls and the tables in Coates and Mabee. About $2,850 was collected through Tiger Bucks donations. The benefit fundraiser held in the Tigers’ Den raised $2,000. In addition, Dr. Brazil gave $1,000 to the student relief effort. Overall more than $10,000 was collected in a less than three weeks – twice the amount set as the original goal.
As the student drive came to a close, Ms. Martinez had nothing but praise for the others who helped with the planning. “It was like a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “I knew the campus was in good hands. With a cause that was as personal to me as this one was, I don’t think I would have trusted it with anyone else.”
“I had no doubt that whatever they did, it would be successful,” said David Tuttle, Dean of Students, about the student’s relief efforts. “Honestly, I just wanted to stay out of their way. They needed little institutional support. The students planners scheduled the events, set their goals, and promoted their cause. The students as a whole responded with a great outpouring of donations and showed that they were affected deeply by what happened.”