Tsunami Disaster Brings Out Student Donations

December 26, 2004: Hazy clouds give way to a rising sun early that Sunday morning.

In the east, tourists disperse from various hotels strewn along the Malaysian coast, many taking to shallow waters lapping at the shoreline.

However, gradually the weather begins to change - the tide falls below normal, birds fly in distress, and a low rumble builds beneath the ground.

Just minutes before 8 o'clock, waves up to 100 feet high thunder into the coastline, engulfing the beach and everyone on it.

Objects ranging from buses to buildings are suddenly tossed about like toys as the tsunami tears into major cities nearby, washing away communities with its torrential floods.

Similar attacks occur elsewhere along the Indian Ocean, entire nations succumb to the tsunami's destructive forces as the aftermath leaves an indelible stain on the Asian continent.

Millions were shocked by the ferocity and surprise of the hit, or as Michael Makabi said, "With one blow, our lives were changed forever."

A Santa Monica College student and key leader in a fundraising event, he and freshman Ben Zioni launched their campaign which now joins those of well over a dozen other colleges to earn $30,000 per school ($1 for every person here) to donate to the tsunami relief fund via the Red Cross.

One dollar isn't a lot.

The average student spends at least twice as much for a cup of coffee or food in school, yet "$1 is one life," said Zioni during a phone interview.

Inspired by his girlfriend, Safin Hasanpour (to whom he also dedicates his efforts), he and Makabi began their work on the event a month ago before a very willing and helpful Associated Students board.

These two young men, both business majors, were driven to such an extent for the tsunami relief that they presented their idea before the Regional 7 board.

The approval and participation of 14 other schools across California was received by the board.

If each of these colleges raises the intended $30,000, it is believed that approximately $420,000 could be raised for the victims still suffering from the tsunami's wake.

In lieu of this, Jeronimo Saldana, Associated Students president is now scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C.

There, Saldana will try to promote the cause and hopefully take the college fund-raising campaign national.

The event began small and slow at the Clocktower yesterday beneath a beautiful, sunny skyline, while a light breeze fought with an erected banner presenting their goal.

It read "One dollar for every student in school," yet grew with the upbeat music and steady streams of people coming to donate.

The voices of Zioni and Makabi echoed throughout the area behind as the two encouraged others to contribute during the activities hour.

Jeronimo himself paid a visit to the group in between work to show his support.

"These are students who care, students with heart," he said over the microphone today.

The general view of the students who gave to the cause was very supportive.

Elina Gadelir and Mariam Elaribi smiled as I spoke to them about their thoughts on the event.

"It's a good idea. I'm glad someone's doing something at SMC about the crisis. This approach caught my attention and I'm more than happy to contribute," said Gadelir.

Elaribi seemed equally excited, "Good idea, I've always wanted to donate for the tsunami relief."

Most everyone appeared to have a similar view, such as sophomore Brett Reney.

"I think it's a good thing to promote social awareness here," said Reney.

Such was in fact part of the mission for the two men at the Clocktower yesterday, trying to bring social awareness in a place where people are very condensed and not as spread out as other areas.

Beyond the stories and images of the horrific tragedies that befell the Asian continent last year, there were also personal aspirations that motivated both Zioni and Makabi to push forward and bring attention to their cause.

For Makabi, this was just as much an ethical matter as it was a reasonable one.

He has a profound belief in Karma, and shares sentiments with Zioni that we as the world's one and only remaining superpower should do more to assist in the aid relief of the tsunami survivors.

Both consider themselves optimists, as well as people who like to take charge of things - hence their efforts in the cause.

They also emphasize that this disaster is just one of many others out there in the world in need of support.

Despite his obvious hard work shown throughout the relief drive, Makabi gives more credit to Zioni for all that has occurred.

It was Zioni's idea to start the aid relief from the get-go.

Zioni and Makabi refuse to give up on the tsunami relief fund until their goal of $30,000 is met.

Zioni and Makabi will be at the Library Walkway from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, ready to collect donations from the college community.