SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Asking for thousands of dollars for a relief effort halfway across the globe was an ambitious task for Petal Morais, Wittenberg University Class of 2005. She did it anyway, and her campus community pulled through.
Morais led a fund-raising effort to help with reconstruction costs in her native Sri Lanka following the devastating Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami. The generosity of the Wittenberg community shined brightly in the form of a $3,500 donation to an organization called Galle Doctors Project for Shelter Trust, which is headed by Morais’ uncle, Dehan Gunasekara, a physician with Teaching Hospital Karapitiya (THK) in Galle, one of the hardest hit areas of the island nation just southeast of India.
A member of Wittenberg Student Senate, Morais was moved to do whatever she could to help in the wake of the historic Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami that affected millions of people in Sri Lanka and more than a dozen other countries in the region. Wittenberg’s donation is being used to help the Gunasekara’s organization build houses for families left homeless by the natural disaster.
The maximum amount given to one family is $1,000, which translates into $100,000 Rupees, the Sri Lankan currency, with families receiving raw material instead of money to prevent misuse of funds. Gunasekara, who was in Colombo, the capital city, with his family and was not present in Galle on the day the tsunami struck Sri Lanka, is joining with other doctors from the teaching hospital to supervise every step of the process. Several new homes have already been constructed, and a Web site is updated regularly for contributors to follow the organization’s progress.
As a unit, Student Senate called upon the Wittenberg community to get involved with the relief efforts by encouraging the development of fund-raising strategies by individual campus organizations. Morais was appointed chair of the relief fund.
Several members of Wittenberg’s faculty and administrative staff made personal contributions to the relief efforts, while Circle K and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity conducted meal swaps at the Center Dining Room (CDR) with members giving up a meal and donating the cost of it. A spare change collection in Firestine Hall netted a small contribution, American International Association (AIA) made blue ribbons and handed them out in exchange for donations, raising more than $300 in the process, Delta Gamma raised more than $300 with a raffle, and several campus organizations, including the Campus Democrats, the class of 2007 and Student Senate made contributions.
In addition, Wittenberg’s improv troupe Pocket Lint donated half the proceeds of a recent show and a Tsunami Benefit Concert at McMurray’s on April 11 raised $700. Just Eve, the university’s all-female a cappella group, and WittMen Crew, the university all-male a cappella group, were the featured musicians. Donations were accepted at the door.
“I would like to thank everyone who contributed both time and money to our fund-raising effort,” said Morais, a psychology major at Wittenberg and an intern in the university’s department of human resources. “This money really will help make a difference in people’s lives.”
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