In response to the deadly tsunami that claimed an estimated 250,000 lives this past December, a dedicated group of students at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG), along with students from other Harvard graduate programs, formed the Tsunami Recovery and Rehabilitation group. Aimed to link Harvard students with internships in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the group’s mission is to build resilience in severely damaged communities and restore hope.
Guided by Jay Rosengard, director of the Center for Business and Government’s Financial Sector Program and lecturer at KSG, the Tsunami Recovery and Rehabilitation group has made significant strides. Rosengard visited Sri Lanka and Indonesia in April to gain a better understanding of the needs and priorities of potential host institutions, and to discuss the selection process and implementation mechanism for the proposed student internships. Helaine Daniels, director of the Masters in Public Policy Program, has also assisted the students as the KSG student contact and administrator for the group.
The Tsunami Recovery and Rehabilitation student committee launched an informational Web site in January that included information on the magnitude of the tsunami’s impact and highlighted the recovery efforts. The site also provided information on how to donate to credible government agencies and local and internal nongovernmental organizations. In February, the student committee conducted University-wide polls to gauge student interest, collected key information regarding the experience and expertise of student applicants, and matched student skill sets with the requirements of potential host organizations.
Yet public service comes at a price. Although the student committee has worked hard in providing information to the public and identifying needs-based internships, funding each student remains a challenge. Currently, 12 KSG students have applied for and secured internships with different organizations.
The Kennedy School has generously contributed $25,000 toward this effort; however a $17,000 funding shortfall remains. The Tsunami Recovery and Rehabilitation group is currently seeking supplementary funding to enable students to apply their skills and demonstrate their commitment to service by responding to the immense suffering caused by the Asian tsunami.