Flags flew at half-mast on January 10 as the university community came together at memorial services on all three campuses to grieve for victims of the December 26 tsunami disaster.
Students quickly mobilized to organize tsunami relief efforts. Of the many undertakings, MBA students at the Rotman School of Management arranged a lunchtime fundraiser; law students set up a donation booth to collect funds; and members of the Tamil Students’ Association held a basketball tournament at Hart House to raise money for Sri Lankan victims. At the University of Toronto at Scarborough, a coalition of campus groups launched the UTSC Tsunami Relief Fund, holding events such as an eight-hour dance-a-thon in the student centre. At the University of Toronto at Mississauga, the Tamil Students Association and the Sri Lankan Students Association partnered to create the Ribbons for Rescue campaign.
Gwen Agboat, a first-year student in social sciences at UTSC, pledged to match whatever her fellow students could raise, up to $10,000. Agboat, who entered university as a mature student, had savings set aside for school but says “given the situation, we have to do as much as we possibly can.” Students met the challenge, raising $25,000 for the Red Cross, most of which was matched by the Canadian government.
The University of Toronto Earthquake Relief Network, a university-wide committee of students, staff and faculty, is looking at long-term ways to help rebuild devastated areas. Committee member Saswata Deb, a first-year medical student, remarks that “the immediate monetary effort by the university community has been incredible.” But, he points out, “even when the urgency of the crisis has passed, hundreds and thousands of lives have been affected – the need is still there.”