International Students Donate $1,500 for Tsunami Relief, Win National Award

Wabash sophomores Tahir and Zuber Ahmed, natives of India, spent the winter semester break working in the International Studies Office. They were on campus when the earthquake and tsunami disaster struck half a world away.

Powerless to help, the twins collaborated with David Clapp, director of international studies, to come up with an idea to sell t-shirts with proceeds going to the Red Cross for disaster relief efforts.

Thursday, the students gave Montgomery County Red Cross Director Mark Franklin a check for $1,500 after selling shirts on campus, across the country, and around the world.

After the announcement of the shirt campaign, Clapp shared the idea with colleagues in international study offices at colleges across the country. In just a few days Clapp had heard from a number of schools wishing to follow-up on the idea and create their own shirts. Many of those schools will be using the logo designed by Clapp and the Ahmed brothers.

"I had brought in a mosaic puzzle of the world before Christmas, so it kind of led to us gravitating toward a puzzle design," he explained. "The more we considered it, the more it seemed to fit what is going on over there – ‘putting it back together.’ "

The twins came up with the idea and remain the driving force behind the project.

"It’s sad hearing about everything," Tahir said. "We were just sitting down on the 26th and watching the news, I spoke to my mother in India she said things were really bad. So I called a couple of friends to see that they were all right. So I thought we might as well do something here and raise some money."

The shirts were designed by Visionwear of Provo, Utah. The front of the shirt includes a jigsaw puzzle map of the world. The theme is "Peace It Back Together," referring to the massive rebuilding that the area that the area faces in the wake of the worst natural disaster in more than 100 years. The shirt’s left sleeve has a Red Cross and Wabash College logo.

"Our students wanted to do something positive," said Clapp. "We were fortunate because we have a number of students studying here from the affected region, but all of their families are safe."

The shirts became a hit across the country as orders poured in to Wabash’s International Studies Office. The Ahmeds have even shipped shirts back home, where they are proudly sold and worn by family and friends in the region affected by the disaster.

Meanwhile, Associate Dean of Students Mike Raters was so enthralled by the effort of the students that he nominated their "Peace It Back Together" campaign for a national award. Raters wrote a description of the program and submitted it to the International Education Knowledge Community (IEKC) of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). IEKC was so impressed it gave the program its Best Practices in International Education and Learning Award in the "Student Philanthropy" category.

"We are honored to have been selected to receive this national award," said Clapp. "It is such a privilege to work with such fine young people each day! We are so blessed to live where we live; the students and I are happy to contribute in a small way to the efforts to help those who cannot help themselves and we wish we could do more. Many thanks to NASPA for this recognition."

"We are encouraging all of our young men to become active citizens in both the college and global community," says Raters. "It is in that fundamentally educational spirit that this Tsunami relief project was developed, and we are quite proud of our students’ desires to model the international effort to ‘Peace it Back Together.’"