RHA to the rescue

As tsunami relief efforts from around the world begin to coalesce, the U’s residence halls advisers are launching their own fund-raiser to help victims from Sri Lanka.

The charity, called “Rupees to the Rescue,” is a joint effort from all the residence halls with main concentration in Sage Point, said Stephanie Kanagaratnam, fund-raiser coordinator and a resident adviser. The rupee is the currency in Sri Lanka, and one U.S. dollar is equivalent to 98 rupees.

“We know that college students don’t have a lot [of money],” Kanagaratnam said, but since the conversion rate is so high, “every penny counts.”

In this pocket-change fund-raiser, finding a penny on the street means donating almost an entire rupee.

“If every Sage Point resident donated $1, we’d have $800, or about 80,000 rupees,” Kanagaratnam said.

The goal is to raise between $50 and $100 per floor from each of the five buildings in Sage Point by the end of January, in addition to whatever else the other areas can donate, she said.

The December tsunami, which devastated countries in South Asia and East Africa, particularly affected Kanagaratnam, who is half Sri Lankan.

“My family’s over there,” she said, adding that the majority of her father’s family lives in the northern Sri Lanka town of Jaffna.

While none of her family members was killed, “homes were displaced [and] my uncle’s farm was destroyed,” she said.

Returning to Jaffna to help his family, her father saw the devastation firsthand and wanted to help the people from his hometown and the surrounding cities.

“It’s this small town that’s often overlooked,” said Jeff Walker, also a Sage Point resident adviser.

Every month, the Residence Hall Association plans an activity that, in some part, will fulfill the university’s mission statement, said Steve Nygaard, director of residential living. These programs often include service.

Both Kanagaratnam and her father thought the monthly mission program could be a good way to raise money for Sri Lankans.

Kanagaratnam pitched the idea to her fellow resident advisers at a meeting and they jumped on the opportunity, Walker said.

“In this way, we can contribute to a city that was affected by the tsunami,” he added.

The advisers collected $60 from donation booths set up at two residence halls events over the weekend.

Kanagaratnam said that individual donations have raised the total amount collected to $100.

While the amount doesn’t seem like much, “it’s a lot when you consider how many rupees that is,” Walker said.

Students can give money to their resident advisers, who will then give the money to Kanagaratnam’s father, Karuna Kanagaratnam. Karuna will donate the money personally to families in Jaffna, Columbo and the surrounding cities based on need.

“It’s not for my family at all. Every penny is going to the people,” Kanagaratnam said.

She added that this fund-raiser is a better way for students to help tsunami victims because “instead of going to a large organization…it’s more personal. The money goes directly to those in need.”

Walker said he agreed.

“It’s a small fund-raiser, so they can become more involved,” he said. The students can “move away from looking at [the aftermath] as a statistic and look at it in a personal way.”

Kanagaratnam said that the advisers are also planning a fund-raiser finale program. She hopes to arrange for live music, but is unsure exactly what the event will be.

Still, she urged students to help tsunami relief efforts in any way they can.

“Consider yourself in the situation. A random tsunami hit your home and destroyed everything. You’d want people to help if they could,” she said.

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