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International students report in safely after tsunami

By Cait Anastis In the wake of the Dec. 26 tsunami, one of the campus community’s first concerns was for Binghamton students and alumni in affected countries.

In addition to the students and alumni from the countries affected by the disaster, a number of the University’s faculty and staff have personal and professional connections with people and institutions in the region.

“To date, we have not learned of any faculty, staff, or alumni directly affected, though the semester break has made it difficult to determine this with certainty,” said President Lois B. DeFleur in a letter to the campus community. “On behalf of the University community, we extend our sympathy to all who have experienced loss or hardship as a result of the tsunami.”

More than 300 students enrolled at Binghamton are from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand, which were all affected by the disaster, said Ellen Badger, director of International Student and Scholar Services. E-mails were sent to those students asking if they and their families were safe.

As of Jan. 18, Badger had heard from 138 of the University’s international students, including all of those who live in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand, as well many of the students who are from India. She added that a majority of the students who are from India live in parts of the country that were not directly affected by the tsunami.

While the University has not heard from all its international students from the region, Badger said the hope is that those who have not responded have not yet checked their e-mail or did not feel the need to respond.

“We would like to think that no news means good news,” she said. While Binghamton’s international students were safe from harm, many have been touched by the disaster. One student from India who lives in Chennai, Tamal Nadu, reported that he was terrified because his father works at the port there, but was safe, Badger said. Another, also from India, reported that although he and his family are fine, nearly 500 people from his town perished.

In addition to the University’s international students, 210 alumni live in countries affected by the disaster, said Richard Heck, director of Alumni and Parent Relations. In cases where the University has e-mail addresses for those alumni, a message was sent, he said. Those e-mails, inquiring about their safety in the wake of the disaster, also encouraged them to pass on the University’s message to other alumni in the area. While the University has only heard from a few of its alumni, in those cases the news was good.

Across the country, there has been a surge of donations for relief efforts in the nations hit by the tsunami. DeFleur said that a number of individuals and campus organizations have indicated that they would like to contribute to the relief effort and many people had already done so individually.

“Clearly, this has been a disturbing and difficult period for the global community and the University,” she said. “I am very proud of the generosity and involvement of our campus community in this effort. Again, our deepest concern and sympathy go out to the many nations and individuals who have been impacted by this horrific disaster.”

Members of the University community who wish to contribute to relief efforts are encouraged to make donations to well-established organizations that are already “on the ground” in the affected countries. For a list of agencies authorized by the U.S. government, visit Lists of organizations working on the relief effort can also be found on the U.S. Agency for International Development Web site at http:/ and the International Student and Scholar Services office Web site at

With the outpouring of support for the victims of the tsunami, a number of agencies have already received donations to cover the costs of relief efforts in Southeast Asia and are indicating that donations can now help prepare for future relief efforts, Badger said.

“The caution I would express to people who wish to make donations to those agencies on the ground is to look carefully at the Web sites for those organizations to make sure that the money will be earmarked for tsunami relief,” she said.

The Employee Assistance Program is also available to provide assistance and services for all employees of the University community who may have been affected by the tsunami. Call 777-6655.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08