Tsunami Hits Parents' Business
SF State Student's Family Mourns the Loss
February 9, 2005 11:51 AM
From half a world away, the Dec. 26 tsunami that ravaged the Indian Ocean region touched the life of SF State student Patipon Sudtipongkasest.
His family’s four-story hotel, on the seashore of the Patong region near Phuket, Thailand, was destroyed by the giant wave, which killed more than 200 hotel guests and 25 employees.
Sudtipongkasest, an international student who has studied for a web design certificate since fall 2004 said the hotel had about 300 registered guests, mostly tourists from Holland, and 35 employees at that moment of the disaster.
“Everything was destroyed,” said Sudtipongkasest. “It’s been very hard for my family. My family was just crying and confused.”
Sudtipongkasest said his parents spent the next several days finding dead bodies in their wrecked hotel and cleaning up. Volunteers from the Thai government and organizations like UNICEF started to arrive in the area to help three days later, he said.
The death toll from the tsunami stands at around 170,000, with as many as 142,000 still missing. The massive devastation wrought by the tsunami has slowed efforts to get an accurate count of the dead and missing.
OIP is designed to assist the university’s F-1 visa international students and their families on immigration and visa matters, cultural adjustment, and personal and financial counseling.
According to Jay Ward, a coordinator for the international student service program, there have been no reports of SF State international students injured or killed by the tsunami.
SF State currently has more than 2,600 international students from over 100 countries, including more than 300 international students from the tsunami-hit regions, according to Ward.
SF State President Robert Corrigan immediately sent letters to students from the affected regions, expressing sympathy and offering support to students traumatized by the tsunami’s impact.
"On behalf of the university, I want to extend my deepest condolences over the terrible loss of life and devastation that your nation is suffering," Corrigan wrote. "We can only hope that you and those close to you are safe and as well as possible in these circumstances."
“At this point in time, we (OIP staff) don’t think any international students are affected in any of these regions,” said Ward. “We are assuming everyone is okay, otherwise we probably would have heard of it by now. It’s been over a month since everything happened.”
Ward said OIP might need to see if the university has a financial resource that could be of support for students if there were enough students who needed financial assistance because of the disaster.
Sudtipongkasest will finish his certificate program in May and head back to Thailand, he said. He has a full load of 21 units this semester, and received a $1,000 credit toward his $4,700 tuition after explaining his family situation to school officials.
The tsunami’s impact will likely be felt in the Indian Ocean region for years to come, analysts say. For-profit and non-profit organizations and people throughout the world have already made a great amount of financial, material and humane contributions to the countries. For example, the American Red Cross has raised $236.2 million in 30 days, according to officials at the Bay Area chapter.
At SF State, some student organizations are already planning on a fund-raising campaign for tsunami victims and survivors. Rima Chaudry and Megan Parkinson of the Women’s Center on campus plan to host a fund-raiser event several weeks later.
“It’s hard not to be affected by that even if you don’t have family there,” said Parkinson, 23, an English major. “It’s such an immense thing that’s happened in our culture and society that I think it affects everybody.”
Chaudry and Parkinson sent out e-mails to various student organizations over the winter break to ask if they want to co-sponsor and get involved. The first meeting with several student organizations was held a week before the semester started to discuss how they wanted to do the fund-raiser and how they could collaborate.
“It’s just necessary,” said Chaudry, a 22-year-old senior sociology major. “It’s never a question of any sort of specific inspiration. If you see something that happens, you help in any way you can.
“It’s really important to get students involved because they do have the capability of effecting that sort of change and (helping) out the international community. We want every organization to be involved.”
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