[help]The first week back to school after winter vacation is always one of the hardest. Waking up early, sitting through class after class, and standing in endless lines at the book store are only a few of the hassles the average MSU student must face. So, it’s no surprise that at the end of the week many seek to alleviate their stress by checking out some of the first house parties of the new semester. For most this tends to be a carefree experience, a time to simply unwind. But as several students ascended the stairs of a particular house on Elizabeth St. in East Lansing Thursday night, they were jolted back to reality with a sign on the door reading “Tsunami Relief Party: Drinks Are Free But Please Make A Donation Inside”.
In the aftermath of the devastating tsunami that ravaged South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia and has thus far claimed over 150,000 lives, a global relief effort has swung into full force. Yet, while international media highlights celebrities who’ve made enormous personal donations and countries that have sent ambassadors overseas; local East Lansing businesses, organizations and even individual students are also doing their part by fundraising and creating awareness for the tragedy any way they can.
Student organizations at MSU, especially those focused on Asian and Asian American students, helped initiate some of the first fundraising efforts in the East Lansing and MSU community. Beginning Monday Jan. 10, representatives from organizations affiliated with the countries affected by the tsunami set up tables at the International Center on MSU’s campus to collect money for the relief effort. Archie Soelaeman, president of the Indonesian Student Organization, said the various student organizations worked together to raise as much money as possible and encouraged other students and faculty to be aware of all the lives affected by the disaster.
“People were very supportive,” Soelaeman said. “Not only were they donating money but many even asked for information and contact numbers so they could help in any way we needed them. One professor even asked for a stack of fliers we had at the tables so that she could pass them out to her class.”
Together with the Indian, Thai and Sri Lankan student organizations, Soelaeman said the Indonesian student group has continued to work on several other fundraising projects. Some are predicted to begin in February, although nothing is finalized yet.
With encouragement from Asian American sorority Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, five local East Lansing businesses also agreed to help raise money by donating a portion of their sales last Thursday night to the relief.
David Lin, owner of Bubble Island on Grand River Ave. said that the group asked them to donate either 5 or 10 percent of their sales between 5 and 8 p.m. last Thursday, but because business is usually slow during that time, Bubble Island instead made a donation of $75, much more than would have arose from sales.
“This has been such a tragedy that has affected so many people,” Lin said. “We’re willing to help however we can.”
Other East Lansing area businesses are taking the initiative and asking customers to directly contribute to relief charities. MSU Federal Credit Union on Grand River Ave. has set out a giant plastic jar for donations that will be sent to the American Red Cross. The Great Harvest Bread Company on W. Saginaw Highway in Lansing also displayed a “tsunami victim” donation jar last week.
Community based organizations as well as individual Lansing area citizens have opened their hearts along with their wallets in weeks following the December 26 tsunami.
Members of the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing donated over $10,000 in aid in one night after 400 to 500 people attending a service Friday heard an announcement. And while “Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope”, a national telethon organized in part by actor George Clooney, aired across America last Thursday, Lansing-based WILX-TV helped organize a local telethon a week prior that raised $250,000 in three hours.
The outpouring of local support in recent weeks shows that Lansing, East Lansing and MSU area citizens and students recognize the tsunami disaster as a cause that cannot be ignored. When MSU student Clare Battersby decided along with her neighbor’s suggestion to throw the tsunami relief party she reminded us that the reality of this natural disaster is not something we can simply distance ourselves from with a night out.
“It’s weird to think that we can be out partying when there is this horrible tragedy going on,” Battersby said. “We wanted to do this because even though we can go on with our day-to-day lives we need to remember how many people have had theirs destroyed.”

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