Vigil raises money for victims in Myanmar
The cyclone hit Myanmar with up to 120-mph winds, and international aid organizations now estimate the death count at roughly 100,000, Reuters reported. Oxfam predicts that as many as 1.5 million cyclone victims could perish from the storm as well as from disease, unsanitary conditions and a lack of clean water, according to The Associated Press.
The hour-long event, titled “A Vigil for Myanmar,” raised $570, all of which will be donated to UNICEF and is expected to be matched by the Ford Foundation.
The poster for the event — designed by Andy Chen ’09, an organizer of the event and president of the Student Design Agency — raised publicity for the event itself and was sold at the vigil to raise money for victims.
“On the banner, I repeated the word Myanmar 15,000 times to capture the chaos visually … it was sitting on the press ready to be printed when the news had reported the death toll rose to 22,000, so I had to make the banner longer, which was kind of horrible,” Chen said.
Chen said he was surprised to discover that many students on campus did not know of the crisis in Myanmar. “I think that people have been a little bit slow to respond because this is a stressful time of year, and it’s understandable, but it doesn’t exculpate us from our responsibilities,” Chen said. “We can’t let the pain of others go unnoticed because we’re too fraught with our own work.”
“This life is full of crunch times,” Associate Dean of Religious Life Paul Raushenbush said. “If you’re always too busy, then you’re never engaged. Even if it’s [in] a small way, even amidst very busy times, you can realize that you are needed beyond this small bubble.”
International Center Director Paula Chow urged students to spread awareness when they returned to their local communities for summer vacation. “When you go home, most of you will be away. Please remember that this tragedy can happen to all of us. Make a decision that you’re going to make a difference. Rally them to do the same thing,” Chow said.
Though there is only one student from Myanmar at the University, Chen said that “just because there aren’t many Burmese students on campus doesn’t mean [the tragedy is] any less significant.”
Raushenbush contrasted the campus reaction with the reaction to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. “A lot of students have no idea this is going on,” he said. He noted that the media censorship in Myanmar has made getting reliable information about the situation in the country difficult.
The event included readings, speeches and prayers from creative writing professor Paul Muldoon, Rutgers professor Josef Silverstein, organizers and students from various religious groups on campus.
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