SAA Raises Funds for Flood Victims

“Spiced!” dance nets $1,500 for victims of floods in Bangladesh, India

Over 325 students from Harvard and several other Boston-area schools danced Saturday night away to raise money for victims of this summer’s flooding in Bangladesh and India.

The sold-out “Spiced!” dance—a night cruise featuring hip-hop beats and remixed Bhangra music piped over two dance floors—raised at least $1,500 that will be donated to the international charity ActionAid, said South Asian Association (SAA) co-President Prital S. Kadakia ’06.

Kadakia came up with the idea for the semi-formal, and student groups from Boston University, Northeastern, Wellesley, Tufts and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute helped plan the dance and shared the financial burden of renting the boat.

“The main purpose of the event was to bring together these schools. In particular, Harvard doesn’t go out as much,” Kadakia said. “It’s also nice to raise money for charity.”

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have estimated that the flooding in Bangladesh during the summer monsoon season caused $2.2 billion in damage.

“$1,500 doesn’t seem like a huge amount, but it can feed so many children over there,” Kadakia said. “One dollar can be converted to 40 rupees, and some meals only cost five rupees. You’re talking about a lot of meals for children who don’t have a home anymore or people whose jobs were destroyed.”

SAA Social Chair Alka R. Tandon ’07 added that while “the sum itself definitely isn’t as big as the people there need,” the event also reinforced “the idea that we are still connected to southeast Asia.”

Kadakia said he came up with the idea of a dance for South Asian students from the Boston area in the spring of 2003, when he ran to be SAA social chair.

“Spiced!” was timed to coincide with the fifth annual National Gandhi Day of Service.

The first Gandhi Day of Service, in memory of the leader of the Indian independence movement, Mohandas K. Gandhi, took place in 1997 at the University of Michigan to promote civic engagement and community service.

The event was expanded to college campuses across the nation in 1999. Last year, over 7,000 students participated in a cumulative 25,000 hours of community service, according to the movement’s website.

Kadakia said that some SAA members volunteered at a soup kitchen earlier in the day Saturday. He added that SAA participated in a cleanup alongside the Charles River to commemorate the National Gandhi Day of Service last fall—but the dance was the only event that involved collaboration with other schools.

“Even the name of the event was chosen by everyone,” Kadakia said.

Boston College and MIT had already held events for National Gandhi Day of Service, but encouraged students to attend “Spiced!,” Kadakia said.

Tandon said that SAA hopes to make “Spiced!” an annual event. She added that SAA may attempt to organize another major charity fundraiser for the spring semester.

—Staff writer Alan J. Tabak can be reached at tabak@fas.harvard.edu.