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A message about the South Asia earthquake

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

Students, faculty, and staff members at Harvard University share the shock and grief of people around the world at the devastation caused by the recent earthquake in South Asia. The stories emerging from the region are heartbreaking, and the tragedy seems all the more cruel for the large numbers of children who have lost their lives, or face futures dramatically altered by the earthquake. All of us offer our deepest sympathies to those members of our community who have been personally touched by this catastrophe, and to the millions of people in the region of the earthquake and beyond whose lives have been upended.

Many individuals at Harvard have already given generously to relief funds. We invite others to consider assisting with earthquake relief efforts by making a contribution to their charity of choice as part of the Community Gifts through Harvard Campaign 2005.

In addition, many members of our community are involved in grassroots fundraising and relief efforts. For instance, a group of undergraduates organized a charity banquet at Kirkland House on Oct. 29 and will be holding an interfaith remembrance service and vigil in Memorial Church on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. Also on Nov. 9, students from the Law School will hold a charity auction at the Hong Kong restaurant in Cambridge. At the School of Public Health, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has been mobilizing doctors and nurses with public health training for deployment with the International Rescue Committee and other relief agencies. Recognizing the tremendous value and importance of these and many other efforts, the University has contributed funding to undergraduate-led initiatives and is prepared to make additional funding available on a case-by-case basis to groups of University members who, with compassion and imagination, have devised ways to contribute to the ongoing relief efforts in Pakistan.

Sadly, future disasters, natural or manmade, are inevitable. In all disasters the University’s primary and most important response will be based on the work and commitment of its students, faculty, and staff and the unique capacities they can bring to each situation. To maximize the effectiveness of our efforts, we are working to design a method of more effective coordination and information to notify community members of ways in which they can, individually or collectively, contribute money or skills when disasters occur. Moreover, for the Pakistan/South Asia earthquake and in future disasters as appropriate, the University will consider making various kinds of support available to Harvard students, faculty, and staff as they devise plans of their own to raise funds or contribute in person to assuage the needs of disaster victims. The work of these committed people is a source of pride and inspiration to the entire University.

Lawrence H. Summers