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Campuses feel tsunami effects

| Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The tsunami that tore through Southeast Asia on Dec. 26 affected Notre Dame abroad programs and alumni, but there are no reported Notre Dame student casualties, said Ireneo Bong Miquiabas, director of International Student Services.The tsunami devastated the homelands of 105 Notre Dame students, Miquiabas said in an e-mail. These students live in India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Somalia, he said. According to Miquiabas, none of the students’ immediate families were affected. ISS still awaits news from a few Indian students, he said.Miquiabas said most international Notre Dame students from the affected nations do not live in the coastal areas that were impacted by deadly waves.”Most of them do not live on the affected coast,” said Miquiabas. “We have heard from all [the] students from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Somalia.”A Notre Dame study abroad program headed for Southeast Asia will now have its participants focus on tsunami relief. The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, which recently revised its Master’s program in the region – expanding it to two years with a six-month field experience – will send three students in July, said Martha Merritt, professional specialist at the Kroc. They will work with Catholic Relief Services in Southeast Asia, including one student who will work in hard-hit Indonesia, she said. “[The student in Indonesia] in particular will be affected by the aftermath of the tsunami, as the CRS is in the process of restructuring their priorities and therefore assessing the most urgent tasks,” Merritt said. Several Notre Dame alumni currently in the region were affected by the tsunami and its aftermath. Human rights worker and 2004 graduate Chayanit Poonyarat had just started working in Thailand when the tsunami struck. Poonyarat and co-workers have been overwhelmed with relief efforts. “Last month I started a job with FORUM-ASIA, a Bangkok-based regional human rights organization,” said Poonyarat, in comments posted on the Kroc Institute’s Web site. “Many of us have been back to work since [the tsunami] and have been terribly busy working on the issue.”Riziki Shahari, a 2003 graduate, felt the effects of the deadly waves thousands of miles away in Tanzania. Ten people, largely fisherman and beachgoers, were killed in the eastern African nation.”The disaster touches us a bit in terms of its impact, a few have lost their lives and the number could go up as some news are still coming from places like Mafia Island, Zanzibar and Pemba,” Shahari said on the Kroc site. “The only relief is that all members of my family are fine and so far no bad news from close relatives and friends. But as a country we are mourning.”