Goshen College response to South Asia disaster

Thursday, January 6, 2005

GOSHEN, Ind. – The recent natural disaster in South Asia has caused many around the world to respond, including the Goshen College campus.

Campus response

Goshen College students just returned to campus following a three-week holiday break to start the Spring semester of classes on Jan. 5. Yet campus efforts are already underway to actively respond to the Dec. 26 South Asian earthquake and resulting tsunamis that have caused widespread devastation, including nearly 150,000 deaths, 5 million homeless and displaced persons, millions of dollars of property and structural damage, hunger and disease alerts.

Campus Ministries is calling all students, faculty and staff to donate towards Mennonite Central Committee’s relief efforts, with the goal of raising at least $10,000. Students who have a cafeteria meal plan, through arrangements with campus food provider Sodexho-Marriott, will have an opportunity to sign up to skip a meal a week for the next month in order to donate the cost towards the larger goal. One hundred students signed up on the first day. Boxes will be placed around campus for cash donations. A bucket was passed through the crowd during a Jan. 4 men’s basketball game raising nearly $600. In addition, the International Student Club will be making plans to raise money for relief efforts; details will be made available when that fundraiser is underway.

Goshen College senior Thushan Hemachandra of Colombo, Sri Lanka, is helping to lead the fundraising efforts. He said, “Everything we can do, no matter how small it is, will make a huge difference to the millions who have lost their loved ones and their homes in this, the largest human catastrophe of our time.”

Campus impact

International Student Advisor Skip Barnett said Jan. 3 in an email to the campus community that to the best of his knowledge none of Goshen College’s international students were directly harmed by the South Asia earthquake and tsunamis over the holiday break. There are 13 Goshen College international students from the countries primarily affected. Three Indonesian students who did travel home over the break were not in harm’s way. One student from Sri Lanka, whose family is safe, reports that his parents have become involved in relief efforts including distribution of aid to victims in other regions of the country.

Goshen College Campus Minister Sylvia Shirk Charles said, “It is hard to fathom this number of deaths and this many people left homeless. Though we are grateful that all of our students who went to Indonesia for the holidays did return safely, and we have not learned that any of their close family members were killed, our hearts are heavy as we think of the people whose lives have been shattered by this tragedy. We believe that even our small efforts to add to the massive relief projects already underway are an important expression of our faith in God’s power to bring new life out of destruction and death. I am inspired to see our students working together and willingly giving up meals and cash to reach out to those who suffer.”

Being one of the first colleges to require international education as part of its core curriculum, Goshen College has always had connections with and concern for other regions of the world. International students make up 10 percent of the student body and come from 40 countries. More than half of faculty members have lived or worked abroad, and in a typical year, approximately 70 to 80 percent of graduating seniors will have studied abroad.

Goshen College, established in 1894, is a four-year residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S.News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit https://www.goshen.edu.

Editors: For more information, contact News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.