Student lends hand to tsunami relief fund

Rachel Melson sat in a state of utter disbelief over the winter break as she bore witness to the devastation caused by the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia.

According to, the tsunami’s death toll has risen to 212,000 and over 6,000 people are still missing.

The 20-year-old sophomore said she decided to do something about it. Melson said she decided to lend a hand to the millions who lost their homes and possessions, if not their lives.

She immediately began to formulate what would come to be a University-wide service project. She hopes “Lend a Hand to Help a Land” will ultimately result in a donation in Florida A&M University’s name to the Tsunami Relief Effort through the

Tallahassee Red Cross.

“This is something we have to do,” said Melson, also the 2004-2005 Miss Phi Beta Sigma.

“This is not a government or political issue. When a child is orphaned overnight and left hungry we should help, especially since we’re such a privileged country.”

Melson said according to the Tallahassee chapter of the American Red Cross, FAMU was the first school in the area to put together a fund of this sort.

The project, co-sponsored by the Alpha Eta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., calls for the heads of every organization on campus to solicit $1 from each of its members.

The drive began Jan. 13 and will run trough Friday Jan. 28. Melson said a full report of group donation totals and overall totals will be publicly disclosed later.

“Everybody in our organization was basically gung ho about it,” said Kori Scott, president of FAMU’s National Pan-Hellenic Council.

“Service is one of the mottos that we strongly believe in, not just to the Tallahassee community, but to the global community as well.”

Scott also said the $1 donation may not be much to the sender but could mean the world to the recipient.

“A dollar here or a dollar there is not going to hurt us,” Scott said.

“We are so blessed.”

However, some students are skeptical about giving to the tsunami aid relief efforts, but not for monetary reasons.

Chief among Richard Marcus Jr.’s reason for not wanting to give to the project is because of the amount of money tsunami victims have already received from the federal government.

“The amount of money they have already received is in the billions, while the U.S. only sent $60,000 to Haiti when they were almost destroyed by hurricanes,” said Marcus, a third year computer information systems student from Charlotte, N.C.

‘That tsunami also hit Africa but you never hear anything about that.”

Only one other organization has responded to Melson’s plea.

“We felt as FAMU students that we could relate to people losing things, especially with the recent hurricanes,” said LaMonica Orr, 21, president of the Beta Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

“We try to raise international awareness and we thought this would be a good way to help humankind.”

Nonetheless, Melson, 19, said she and the organization she is associated with is going to give regardless. But she remains hopeful that others will join the effort.

“The Almighty said that when we feed and clothe strangers, we may be feeding his Son” Melson said.

“Florida A&M University is about excellence with caring, let’s show the world we care.”

Contact Nick Birdsong at