by Laura Fraser
The Ryerson Pakistani Students Association hopes to collect buckets of money to donate to victims of the South Asian earthquake.
Volunteers will be targeting high-traffic areas at Ryerson, such as cafeterias, with their buckets in an effort to raise $10,000 in the next two weeks for Ryerson’s South Asia Emergency Earthquake Relief Fund.
“If you have anything, drop it in the bucket,” said Usama Sikander, director of promotions for the PSA. “A quarter, a penny, it doesn’t matter.”
Donations will provide survivors of the 7.6-magnitude earthquake, which hit on Oct. 8., with tents, food and blankets. Since Prime Minister Paul Martin’s announcement on Oct. 11 that all donations will be matched by the federal government, this initial goal will double to $20,000.
And that’s just from bucketing.
“We’re trying to get in contact with other student groups, because we want everyone to pitch in,” Sikander said.
So far, he thinks response has been positive. Members from the Ryerson Students’ Union, the Ryerson Muslim Students Association and the Indo-Canadian Students Association make up the volunteer committee that will be collecting donations.
The RSU will be contributing to the earthquake relief effort in other ways.
Originally half of the proceeds from the upcoming Multicultural Show were going to the victims of hurricane Katrina and half to the RSU.
Now, the RSU is giving away their half to the earthquake relief fund.
“So many students were affected by this (earthquake),” said Alam Ashraful, vice-president student life and events. “They lost family, or lost property. We are proving that we are beside the students and we are helping those that need it.”
Ashraful doesn’t know exactly how many students have been directly affected. The earthquake destroyed villages in Pakistan, India, Kashmir and Afghanistan and the estimated death count stands at approximately 54,000.
Ashraful knows of four Ryerson students who lost family members in the earthquake.
Muhammad Salman Rashid is a second-year computer engineering student at Ryerson. Almost two weeks after the devastating earthquake, his father’s cousin is still missing.
Since satellite communication is down in certain areas, Rashid doesn’t know how long his family will have to wait for information. Last week, Rashid papered Ryerson hallways with posters that urge students to donate money.
The PSA wants to help students like Rashid, Sikander said. Although not many students have come forward, the organization will make counselling resources available.
The Centre for Student Development and Counselling at Ryerson offers crisis counselling to students through the Ryerson Crisis Team.
“When there is a tragedy of this magnitude students that are directly affected may need professional help,” said Diana Brecher, co-ordinator of the Ryerson Crisis Team and clinical psychologist.
“A debriefing around trauma assists people to work through distress and minimize any long-term effects.” Both group debriefings and private counselling is available.
Students may experience symptoms of stress, said Brecher. These include fatigue, heightened sensitivity to noise and withdrawal.
Ryerson President Sheldon Levy wants to sit down with students who were personally impacted by the earthquake.
“By talking with organizations like the Pakistani Students Association we can get suggestions on how the university can best respond,” he said.
Levy said students who were not directly affected by the disaster should also do their part.
“We’re all part of the human race. It may be on the other side of the globe, but this is part of a community we share in,” he said.
“Whether it be Katrina or Rita or this earthquake, we share the responsibility to try to do the best we can for each other.”
The PSA is hoping students will share the president’s sense of responsibility.
Once donations are collected they will be given to the Edhi Foundation, the Islamic Circle of North America or the Canadian Muslim Relief Council. All organizations have teams on the ground in Pakistan.
“Some people wanted to donate to UNICEF, because so many kids were affected,” said Sarah Siddiqui, director of events for the PSA.
“But with over 3 million people in distress, we want to help as many people as possible.”