Emory Report
February 14, 2005
Volume 57, Number 19


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February 14, 2005
Emory keeps up contributions to tsunami relief effort

BY Katherine Baust

Michael Saenger just returned from hell, and people there still need help.

“I would like to encourage those interested in helping with long-term needs in countries affected by the tsunami,” said Saenger, assistant professor of medicine and internist at Grady Hospital. “If people are interested, there are all sorts of opportunities for non-acute medical issues, and Emory has a tremendous amount of resources.”

Saenger recently returned from leading a volunteer medical team for two weeks in a refugee camp north of the Sri Lankan city of Batticoloa, an area that has been badly impoverished by civil war and the tsunami. Organized through Saenger’s religious denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America, the medical team “not only focused on acute medical problems but also post-traumatic stress disorder, counseling and a caring presence,” he said.

“When poor people must deal with any extra stress, and they’re already barely living on the margins of society, they are pushed over the edge,” Saenger said. “Many were living in poorly constructed housing; the waves took out their boats and nets and left them destitute. They have no way to provide for their families. Their whole lives are just flipped upside down.”

Saenger is not the only member of the University community to contribute to tsunami relief. An ad hoc group of students organized fund-raising events through a LearnLink conference led by senior business major Snehal Shah, president of the Indian Cultural Exchange. The students formed Emory Tsunami Relief (ETR) and held a Jan. 25 candlelight vigil on the Quadrangle in honor of tsunami victims. Two nights later, the group sponsored a benefit concert in Glenn Auditorium featuring student performers such as a cappella groups No Strings Attached and The Gathering.

In just eight days, the students surpassed their original goal of $5,000. Emory students on the Atlanta campus raised $5,800, and their Oxford counterparts raised $1,175, for a total $6,975. And the final numbers aren’t in; according to Donna Wong, associate director of the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, the students still are trying to find time to count and roll a 50 lb. bag of pennies donated during the Jan. 24–29 Charter Week.

“Local restaurants have also been collecting donations for ETR,” Shah said. “All of the proceeds we’ve gathered were split 50-50 between CARE and AmeriCares.” “Overall, I really want to thank the community for all it’s done to help,” Wong said. “It’s great that we can be responsible international citizens.”