Campus & Community

Harvard community donates $553,132

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University matches 3,359 student, faculty, and staff contributions

The Harvard University community has donated $553,132 to 26 nonprofit organizations supporting relief efforts related to the Dec. 26 tsunami in South Asia. Through a program established by Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers last month, the University matched up to $100 of donations from 3,359 faculty, staff and students. Individual contributions totaled $307,255; the University matched $245,877 of those donations.

“The generosity of the Harvard community speaks for itself,” said Summers. “I am glad that the University was able to play a part in making the donations of students, staff, and faculty stretch further to aid those communities affected by the tsunami in South Asia and Africa.”

Community Gifts at Harvard

More Harvard tsunami connections

Nearly one-third of the Harvard donations, or $166,713, went to the Boston Chapter of the American Red Cross. The remaining funds were distributed by Community Gifts Through Harvard to a variety of local and national organizations, including CARE, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam America, and UNICEF, as well as several faith-based nonprofits.

University officials note that while Harvard is no longer matching donations, tsunami relief and reconstruction efforts are ongoing and will continue to benefit from student and employee generosity. Faculty, staff, and students can continue to donate through Community Gifts through Harvard.

Students respond with ‘Changing the Tide’

The Harvard College Tsunami Relief Effort (HCTRE) – an ad hoc coalition of students and student organizations dedicated to aiding the thousands left misplaced and homeless by the December catastrophe – along with the Harvard Foundation and the Harvard Office for the Arts, is collaborating on an upcoming performance to raise funds for the devastated region.

The event – a showcase of student performances titled “Changing the Tide: Harvard Responds to the Tsunami Disaster” – will be held on Feb 19 at 8 p.m. in Sanders Theatre. A host of Harvard groups, including the Harvard Krokodiloes, Kuumba, Fallen Angels, the South Asian Dance Company, Gumboots, Mainly Jazz, and Spoken Word Society, among others, are scheduled to perform. Tickets are $10 for students, $15 for general admission, and $25 for donor seats. All proceeds will benefit the survivors and their communities.

Since forming, HCTRE has raised more than $4,000 for food, clothing, and medical supplies. Harvard Habitat for Humanity will match proceeds to the HCTRE fund, thereby doubling the impact of each individual contribution.

Checks or money orders can be made payable to HCTRE, c/o Harvard College, 352 Cabot Mail Center, Cambridge, MA., 02138. For more information, contact For tickets to “Changing the Tide,” call the Harvard Box Office at (617) 496-2222.

Andrew Brooks

Education, remembrance

In addition to funding, Harvard students, faculty, and staff have mobilized a variety of resources in response to the tsunami disaster, from collecting medical supplies to creating a benefit CD to direct relief through trips to the region. On campus, several events sought to teach about the region and memorialize lives lost in the tsunami.

On Jan. 7, a panel at Harvard Law School (HLS) brought some of the issues facing those affected by the tsunami into sharp focus, adding geopolitical, economic, and religious shadings to the images of death and devastation that have dominated the media. In the discussion, called “The Impact of the Recent Tsunami Disaster in Southeast Asia and Beyond,” three HLS students with Sri Lankan roots joined Harvard Professor of Anthropology Mary Steedly, who has conducted research in Sumatra for more than 20 years.

Sri Lankan native Andal Radhakrishnan, an L.L.M. student who worked in the Sri Lankan Ministry of Finance, gave an overview of some of the post-tsunami problems – including looting, infrastructure damage, and the ongoing tensions between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels – facing the island nation of 19 million.

The Aceh province at the northern tip of Sumatra has borne the brunt of that region’s devastation, and separatist politics have impeded relief efforts there as well, said Steedly. “If there’s any kind of potential positive outcome of these events … it’s the reinvigoration of the democracy movement,” she said. “If that can have a kind of continuing effect, that’s at least one small positive outcome.”

A Memorial Church service remembering victims of the tsunami and dedicating efforts to help survivors drew more than 100 people to the solemn sequence of prayer, words, and music Jan. 12.

The service, called “An Offering of Remembrance and Dedication for Victims and Survivors of the Tsunami Disaster,” featured prayers from several religions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Baha’ism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. The Memorial Church’s bells tolled during the service for those lost in the tragedy.

In comments during the service, several speakers praised the efforts of the Harvard community.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William C. Kirby said the increasing interconnectedness of the world has been highlighted by the tsunami disaster and how it has touched Harvard. The University, Kirby said, is not only a place that studies the entire globe, but is also a place where the entire globe comes to study. He said the University’s steps to encourage individual donations were appropriate and that we must not forget less publicized but no less urgent tragedies occurring around the globe.

S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, and Kimberlea Tracey, the New England regional director of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, also made remarks.

The service was organized by the Harvard South Asian Association, with the support of the Memorial Church, the United Ministry at Harvard, and the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations.