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Updated 5:30 PM January 20, 2005




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Students to organize tsunami aid events

Soon after the earthquake and resulting tsunami hit 11 countries, killing more than 150,000 people and destroying property, two U-M students independently began sending out e-mail messages to their friends, trying to gather support for the victims of the Dec. 26 disaster.

A short time later, the LSA seniors, Elizabeth "Beth" Bovair of Novi, Mich., and Hershey Jayasuriya, of Sri Lanka, were put in touch with one another. And what began with two people planning fundraising events within their circles of friends grew to more than 150 students planning activities to reach out to the entire campus community.

"It was absolutely incredible," Bovair says. "I thought if we could get 10 students together, that would be great! Now the group has morphed into this collaborative, centralized effort."

Jayasuriya says in a way she is not surprised the response was so great.

"I believe one of the reasons why we have gotten so much support in this is because the feelings of loss, despair and hope are universal...everyone can relate to it, and that is what connects everyone and draws people from all over to be part of this effort," she says. "We have support from religious, cultural, business, Greek, engineering, graduate and governmental groups. We appreciate everyone who has taken a step to get involved."

Although plans still are very preliminary, Bovair says the group, now known as Tsunami Aid, is exploring offering a campus-wide entertainment event that could involve a cappella groups, dance troupes, and other musicians and artists coming together for a benefit concert. Staff members from the Division of Student Affairs are assisting the group.

One subcommittee of Tsunami Aid has been trying to find out what other U-M campus organizations are doing, and reaching out to offer support.

"We've already been in contact with many student groups. Some are doing things like Bowl-a-thons, others are donating part of the proceeds from existing cultural events they have planned," Bovair says.

Simultaneous to the planning of events, she says, one of the subcommittees is researching international aid organizations to determine where funds raised should be sent.

"We want to find the one that can get the most money to the people who need it the most."

For more information on Tsunami Aid, or to volunteer or make a donation, send an e-mail to

Editor's note: Jayasuriya lost family members in the disaster. She recently told her story to the Michigan Daily. See

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