York students assist world organization with tsunami relief

York student members of World University Service of Canada (WUSC) are helping to raise funds for tsunami relief. WUSC is one of several approved agencies accepting donations for the devastated countries. There are seven students in the WUSC group at York and more than 70 volunteers. Each year the group participates in WUSC’s Sponsored Refugee Program by sponsoring, through a student levy, a refugee student’s studies at York, says Crystal Melin, director of external affairs for the York chapter.

Left: Members of WUSC at York

Although there are currently no York members of WUSC working in Sri Lanka, several did work on programs before the tsunami and are now focusing on emergency relief. “We also have international educational exchanges,” Melin said, adding the group is awaiting approval of applications for WUSC’s 2005 summer program in Burkina Faso.

Right: Hungry children in Africa receive food aid from York WUSC team

York’s WUSC members will be working to raise money with other organizations, such as York’s Social Work Student Association and the York University Bookstore. They are holding a bake sale, Jan. 25-27 in the Kinsmen Building, 2:30-7pm daily. The group is also planning an “open-mike” pub night which will be held in Winters College in late February featuring the band One Short.

projec areasWUSC deployed all of its resources in Sri Lanka to meet the emergency and humanitarian needs in response to the devastating floods in the region. The Ottawa-based development agency has longstanding development projects across 15 districts in Sri Lanka supported by CIDA, AusAid (Australia), NORAD (Norway), HIVOS (Netherlands), Asian Development Bank and individual donors.

In the immediate aftermath of the devastating tsunami, WUSC staff and vehicles were used to transport dead and injured to local hospitals, and to help local authorities to reunite families. Currently, WUSC is coordinating the shipment of emergency supplies from their office in Kandy, in the highlands of Sri Lanka, to the following areas: Trincomalee (medical supplies and fuel); Matara/Hambanthota (food and medical supplies) and Killinochchi/Mulative (cleaning and disinfecting supplies).

WUSC is working in close cooperation with local government authorities, NGO consortia and with other organizations to ensure the most effective use of resources. Because of WUSC’s longstanding relationship with the people and communities affected by this tragedy, local relief supplies are being channelled through WUSC by government agents, the government TV station, local support groups such as the Lions Club and some tea plantation companies.

Financial support to maintain this relief effort remains the single most urgent need. Members of the York community wishing to support WUSC’s efforts are encouraged to donate online at www.wusc.ca.