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Chamindika Wanduragala, Vinothini Ambrose,  and Pradeepa Jeevamanoharan

Sri Lankan students and alums, Chamindika Wanduragala, Vinothini Ambrose, and Pradeepa Jeevamanoharan (from left to right) are organizing the January 23 concert at Coffman Union for the Sri Lanka Relief Fund.

Tsunami relief efforts at the U

Published on January 12, 2005

Like organizations all over the world, the University of Minnesota has been working overtime to aid relief efforts in Southeast Asia after the December 26 tsunami. True to its diverse culture, the U has responded in myriad ways. Departments, colleges, and student groups are creating all sorts of opportunities for fund-raising, including two upcoming benefit concerts (see below). The University has even added a new spring semester course on the tsunami and the relief work.

Although a surge in donations is expected when students return to school on Tuesday, January 18, people have already been giving generously to various funds. At the end of this article is contact information for all the efforts mentioned. We'll keep you up to date on this site with continued efforts to help in the rebuilding of communities devastated by the tsunami.

Students and departments

Graduate students at the College of Education and Human Development set a goal to raise $5,000 for Save the Children's work in Southeast Asia. The students themselves have already pledged $1,000.

In a highly organized effort, including working with a network already in place in Sri Lanka, the U of M Sri Lanka Student Association is raising money specifically to help rebuild houses in that country, where 1 in 20 people is now homeless.

Two neuroscience graduate students, Joanna Abrams and Monica Metea, are putting up posters on campus to raise funds for MADRE, an international nonprofit organization, to aid women and families hurt by the tsunami. In addition to their private donations, they will fast all day, Friday, January 14, as a gesture of compassion and ask for donations to be made to MADRE to sponsor each hour of their fast.

The gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) community is encouraging donations to international and country-specific organizations that are focused on aiding GLBT victims and their families, and on groups that help children, like UNICEF.

The School of Nursing is collaborating with the International Council of Nurses to contribute to six major relief organizations.

On-the-ground help

Two University faculty members are going to the disaster area to help directly with relief efforts. Steven Miles, a professor of medicine recently named Minnesotan of the Year by Minnesota Monthly, will be going to Aceh province in Sumatra to help set up a clinic for the American Refugee Committee (ARC), an outreach group he has worked with in the United States and abroad since 1979.

Tai Mendenhall, assistant professor and behavioral health clinician in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, will be deployed January 20 to Sri Lanka as part of a psychotraumatology and outreach team. Mendenhall, who worked at Ground Zero following the September 11 attacks, will help train and supervise local and lay trauma workers.

Benefit concerts

Two benefit concerts are scheduled. The first takes place this Saturday night, January 15, at 7 p.m. at the Ted Mann Concert Hall on the Twin Cities campus. The next is January 23 at 7 p.m. at Coffman Memorial Union.

The School of Music is sponsoring the January 15 concert, A World of Music for Tsunami Relief. It will feature musicians from countries affected by the tsunami and beyond, including Joko Sutrisno and an Indonesian gamelan ensemble; South Indian veena artist Nirmala Rajasekar, and company; American folk musician Tim Eriksen; East African traditional and popular music; Scandinavian fiddling; American shape-note singing; and other guests to be announced. The concert is free with a donation. All money goes to UNICEF.

The January 23 concert is sponsored by the Sri Lanka Relief Fund, formed by Diaspora Flow, a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 to promote artists of color. The group started the relief fund after the tsunami.

Coffman Union opened the date for the benefit concert on short notice and lowered the rental price substantially. Graduate students, staff, and faculty from the chemistry department, where Ambrose works, have also contributed significantly to relief efforts and several U student groups are helping out.

Sri Lankan artists from the Twin Cities, Los Angeles, and Toronto will perform. Admission is $10 and donations to the Sri Lanka Relief Fund are welcome. Beyond the immediate needs, Ambrose and her fellow Sri Lankan Americans want to pursue a long-term fund-raising effort and raise about $22,000 to rebuild a school or orphanage in Sri Lanka.

Donation information

NOTE: The Internal Revenue Service recently ruled that taxpayers who itemize deductions may claim on their 2004 tax returns charitable donations made during January 2005 for relief for the tsunami victims.

College of Education and Human Development

Raleigh Kaminsky
Alumni Relations
105 Burton Hall
178 Pillsbury Dr. S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
(make checks payable to Save the Children)

Sri Lanka efforts

University of Minnesota Sri Lanka Students Association
c/o Student Activities Office
126 Coffman Memorial Union
300 Washington Avenue S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Sri Lanka Relief Fund
12134 Jonquil St. N.W.
Coon Rapids, MN 55433
(or on campus at 115 Smith Hall)

For more information, e-mail Joanna Abrams and Monica Metea at GLBT relief organizations Equal Ground School of Nursing organizations CARE USA International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) United Nations World Food Programme UNICEF World Health Organization (WHO) Concerts

School of Music concert--January 15
Jen Jackson

Sri Lanka Relief Fund concert--January 23
Vino Ambrose
Chamindika Wanduragala
Pradeepa Jeevamanoharan