Banquet Raises Tsunami Funds

Dharma, Harvard’s Hindu students’ association, raised over $2000—which will be matched by the University—at their Tsunami Charity Banquet and Raffle in Kirkland Dining Hall on Saturday night.

But the event, which was aimed at raising money and lasting awareness for the region affected by December’s tsunami, did run into one unforseen difficulty.

The banquet lost its headliner—Nobel Prize winner and Lamont University Professor Amartya Sen—at the last minute due to poor weather, said Dharma treasurer Vijay Yanamadala ’07, who directed the event.

Over 200 people attended the banquet, which included a catered spread of Indian cuisine and a raffle for prizes including gift certificates to area businesses.

Attendees heard speeches from S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, and Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies Diana L. Eck, who is also the director of the Harvard University Pluralism Project.

The speakers and organizers stressed the importance of maintaining awareness about the region even months after the disaster.

“It is very difficult to sustain relief efforts over an extended period of time, but the Harvard community is very aware and passionate towards the relief effort,” Yanamadala said.

Counter noted that a wide range of groups on campus have aided in the relief effort in past months.

“Harvard students have done a great job,” showing an “outpouring of concern, humanity, and love,” for those affected by the Tsunami disaster, Counter said during his remarks.

Eck followed Counter’s talk by giving a national perspective on the support for this disaster.

“There has been an instant response from various religious communities in the United States,” Eck said, adding that on an international level support has “extended across lines of culture and religion.”

Dharma has worked in conjunction with the Harvard Foundation and the Undergraduate Council since soon after the tsunami occurred to plan the banquet.

“[The] real test is to see if aid can be sustained through the years of reconstruction following the initial relief efforts,” Dharma Co-president Sheel C. Ganatra ’06 said.

The night concluded with remarks from one of Dharma’s Freshman Representatives, Simi Bhat ’08.

“The true purpose of these charity events is not just to donate money, it is to share a part of ourselves with those less fortunate,” said Bhat, who is also a Crimson editor.

Since the tsunami struck on Dec. 26, student groups around Harvard have organized numerous events and programs to generate money and awareness for victims.

Much of the effort has been organized under the auspices of the umbrella coalition of the Harvard College Tsunami Relief Effort, a group of student and administrative organizations.

The Harvard Foundation and cooperating student groups have donated over $550,000 in relief funds to charities like the American Red Cross and CARE USA since December.