UF Law Students Raise Money for Tsunami Victims
The whole world was stunned by the tsunami that struck southern Asia in December — but for one UF law student, the tragedy was a bit more personal.
Mitesh Patel (3L) was visiting family in India when the tsunami hit, killing thousands of people in that country and more than 160,000 throughout Asia and Africa.
“It was like being in the U.S. after Sept. 11,” he said. “Even in places not directly affected by the tsunami, everyone was in shock.”
Now Patel, a member of the Asian/Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), is working to raise money for victims of the disaster.
He’s not alone. APALSA, the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), CaribLaw and the Spanish American Law Students Association (SALSA) will be collecting donations for tsunami relief in the law school courtyard every day this week. They will be joined by other law students who have taken on tsunami relief fundraising as a public service project.
“I know we’ll make a difference, even if people give us nothing but their pocket change,” he said. “Most people in America have no idea how much impact even a small amount of money can have in India. The cost-of-living is low and the immediate needs of disaster victims are very basic — things like food and shelter.”
Patel and his wife, Wendy, were staying with relatives in India’s Gujarat Province over winter break when the tsunami struck. Though Gujarat wasn’t in the path of the tsunami, Patel said, everyone in the country was affected emotionally by the disaster.
“The news sort of trickled in, at least in the English-language press,” he said. “At first there were some vague reports that a tsunami had hit, and within a day or so there were reporters on the scene saying that maybe a thousand people had been killed. And the numbers kept going up.”
Patel’s family had its own brush with disaster four years ago when a massive earthquake struck Gujarat. He said his family’s experiences in that disaster inspired him to do something for tsunami victims.
“After the earthquake, the Indian government pledged to help,” Patel said. “But many of the victims never got a penny of aid. Some of my aunts and uncles — who could probably be described as middle-class — are still living in earthquake-damaged houses, and it’s even worse for the poor.
“People need help from outside agencies that can deliver aid where it’s needed,” he said.
Donations from the law student fundraiser will go to the tsunami relief fund of the International Red Cross. Even cash-strapped students can have an impact on the lives of disaster victims, Patel said.
“If every law student gave just one dollar, I’d be happy,” he said. “If you get it to the right agency, even a small amount of money can go a long way.”
Patel is a former president of APALSA and currently is chair of the Honor Committee. For information on how you can help, e-mail Patel at firstname.lastname@example.org