W&M Students Come Together for Nepal Earthquake Relief

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Several student groups at the College of William & Mary staged a rally Wednesday to benefit relief efforts for last week's earthquake in Nepal. (Courtesy Menuka Ban)
Several student groups at the College of William & Mary staged a rally Wednesday to benefit relief efforts for last week’s earthquake in Nepal. (Courtesy Menuka Ban)

Nepal is more than 7,000 miles away from Virginia, but students at the College of William & Mary are doing their part to help the south Asian country recover from one of the most destructive earthquakes in recent history.

While the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, which was near the earthquake’s epicenter, is still digging out of the rubble nearly a week after the earthquake struck, William & Mary students have organized multiple rallies, vigils and fundraisers to help the country recover.

Several student organizations, including the W&M Muslim Students Association, South Asian Students Association and Middle Eastern Students Association, staged a vigil on campus Wednesday as a show of support for the beleaguered country and to help raise money for international humanitarian efforts.

The vigil featured henna, a traditional south Asian art form of temporary tattooing, lassi, a traditional south Asian drink, musical performances and T-shirt sales.

Other student groups are also contributing funds to relief efforts. The William & Mary Asian American Student Initiative decided to donate the balance of its group funds for the rest of 2014-2015 school year — $113 — to Nepal relief efforts.

AidData, a William & Mary-based research consortium, is helping to produce updated maps of the country — called Open Street Map — to assist organizations working on the ground in Nepal, and enlisting the assistance of college students to crowdsource the project.

The project uses aerial imaging systems to digitize roads and paths to help emergency resources, which currently lack accurate maps of the devastation, more easily reach affected areas.

Uttar Pudasaini has spent the last week trying to raise awareness of recovery activities at William & Mary. While many students at the college have shown their support for humanitarian reasons, for Pudasini, a doctoral student in applied science, the recovery is personal.

Pudasaini was born in Nepal and grew up in the country before coming to the U.S. for graduate school. When he first heard about the earthquake, Pudasaini knew he had to do something.

“I came here in 2011, so all of my life is there [in Nepal],” he said.

William & Mary does not have a large population of Nepalese students, but Pudasaini reached out to his graduate student colleagues to try to organize something at the college. During their talks, they heard about the Wednesday vigil.

“It started out with maybe five of us,” Pudasaini said about his group of graduate students. “We made it to the vigil and there probably ended up being 60 people there.”

Although Pudasaini thought the event was a success, he does not think the work to help Nepal is finished. With thousands injured or killed in the disaster, he said William & Mary students had a chance to truly aid out a people in need.

“This is a devastation,” he said. “It doesn’t happen all the time, and sometimes you have to come out and help other people.”