Geography playing role in response to recent hurricanes

After a series of successful fundraisers for victims of natural disasters close to home, members of the TCU community noticed a change in the efforts of student organizations to raise money for tragedies abroad. “What we have to avoid is becoming desensitized to human tragedy,” said the Rev. Angela Kaufman, minister to the university.

Several organizations and university departments united earlier this fall to support fundraising efforts for those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

According to CNN, the earthquake that struck Pakistan in early October claimed the lives of over 73,000 people, and was responsible for the deaths of an additional 1,200 people in India.

Kaufman said there haven’t been the same large-scale fundraising efforts on campus for Pakistan that were seen after Hurricane Katrina.

“We should have had as much or more of a response for Pakistan,” Kaufman said. “I think that’s one of our failings in the community sometimes. Sometimes we pay more attention to what is closest to us in proximity and in our hearts.”

Jim Riddlesperger, chairman of the political science department, agreed that geography often plays the greatest role in determining response to tragedies.

“Americans don’t pay a lot of attention to international disasters,” Riddlesperger said.

He said the tsunami broke the mold as a tragedy by attracting so much international attention and support.

“Tsunamis are sexy disasters, if you will, because they don’t happen all the time,” Riddlesperger said.

Claudia Vaz, a junior finance and accounting major, said about $450 was raised for the earthquake victims at an annual event earlier this month sponsored by Students for Asian/Indian Cultural Awareness.

She said the group was grateful for the funds that were raised, as it will still provide relief for the victims.

Despite the struggle to raise awareness of international tragedy, one success story developed among the fundraising campaigns.

Eight students from Guatemala formed Guatemalan Hope to raise money for their people back home, said Sandhya Klein, program coordinator for Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services.

Klein said the group raised more than $5,528 in its three-week campaign, the equivalent of about 42,000 in the Guatemalan currency.

“They knew a lot of people who were affected,” Klein said.

She credited the students’ personal contact with the tragedy for their motivation and success.

“I haven’t seen that initiative in students at TCU for Pakistan,” Klein said.

Whatever the motivation for the fundraiser, Kaufman said the office of University Ministries is a resource for students to organize their relief efforts and connect with other groups on campus that can help them to reach their goals.

“When you’re connected to people and the community, word-of-mouth isn’t hard,” Kaufman said.

Riddlesperger said one the biggest obstacles for student organizations to raise funds is the continuing television coverage of tragedy and devastation.

“There gets to be disaster fatigue after a while,” he said.

Though each tragedy is unique in location, severity and aftermath, Kaufman said each disaster is not having the same effect it may have had before.

“Over the past month people have become desensitized to what goes on in the rest of the world,” Kaufman said.

In response to interest in aiding natural disaster victims, TCU held Red Cross training sessions for students, faculty and staff.

“These are the first step for people who want to help and who want to volunteer,” Kaufman said.