Runway bolsters Relief Campaign's donation to WHO

For about a half-hour, student models from the College, Smith and Mt. Holyoke Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass) showed off clothes and garments that had been shipped from countries in Asia and Africa. Designs were principally Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Sri Lankan, Vietnamese and Chinese. Professional models from New York City were also hired for the event, though they did not participate in the actual modeling.

Female models wore dresses and male models wore shirts and robes. Many of the garments were colorful and featured exotic designs and patterns. The crowd cheered loudly in approval of the outfits, reserving its highest praise for the models from the College.

DJ Varick, a professional DJ from New York City, provided the music for the fashion show and the after-party. Professionals also handled the show’s sound and lighting.

The Amherst Tsunami Relief Campaign, a student organization, planned the event, which drew a large contingent of Five College students. The Campaign was founded at the College shortly after the tsunami crisis to contribute to the relief effort. Viet Do ’06 and Paige Fern ’08 are the coordinators for Tsunami Relief, but Ali Khan ’06, another member of the organization, initially introduced the possibility of hosting a fashion show. From brainstorming to execution, the entire planning of the event took two-and-a-half weeks.

“Our major accomplishment has been to raise awareness of other cultures, and of the world and current affairs,” Fern said. “Being on the other side of the world, we never really think about cultures in other societies. But the Campaign has made people realize the power of the tsunami and the destruction it caused.”

Amherst Tsunami Relief has raised more than $20,000 through its various endeavors thus far. Ticket sales, a cash bar and donations from faculty contributed to Friday’s proceeds.

Khan stressed the importance of the group’s dedication in the planning process. “We all worked on it together,” he said. “We were thinking of events that would include people from all Five Colleges. The fashion show idea seemed quite interesting. We had an incredible team working on it. Literally everyone re-worked their schedules and routines. People were very organized. Everyone gave up all their spare time for the show.”

Do added, “Once we had united ourselves behind the idea of a fashion show, we worked in close collaboration with all Five Colleges, with most local business and with the administration.” Despite the cooperation of many, there were some obstacles along the way. “While progress on the logistical aspect of the show progressed swiftly, there was a significant crunch during the last few days. Everyone was driven to exhaustion, but in the end everything necessary was taken care of. Personally, I have never worked with a more dynamic and resourceful team,” he said.

Departments across the College helped facilitate Runway. Physical Plant mapped out the Alumni Gym and planned the physical arrangement of the room, Campus Police provided security, and students volunteered to set up and clean up. Athletic Director Peter Gooding, Director of the Campus Center Samuel Haynes and President Anthony Marx were all instrumental in planning as well. “The whole College helped to make it a smashing success,” Khan said. Even on other Five College campuses, students contributed to the advertising effort by hanging posters and informing their friends about the event.

In addition to Runway, the Tsunami Relief Campaign arranged for about 755 students at the College to donate a day’s worth of Valentine meals on February 18. According to Valentine’s records, the previous high number of donated meals for any cause was 560. “It was amazing that so many students were willing to give up their meals,” Fern said. The Campaign also raised about $3,200 from Casino!.

All of the group’s proceeds will be donated in a lump sum to the WHO. Tsunami Relief chose the WHO because the organization is still $13 million short of its $67 million appeal. Khan added that the WHO funnels its proceeds into the affected areas more directly than some other organizations.

“Runway marked a new phase in our campaign,” Do said. “The main idea motivating this event was that it would be beneficial not only to our own college, but also to the local and the international communities. We no longer asked people to simply donate. Instead, we asked people in the Five Colleges to experience the cultural celebration and have a good time while contributing to the fund.”

Though the Campaign’s signature event has now passed, Khan noted that the group’s work is far from complete. “The tsunami will have many long-term effects that will be felt for the next decade, so we definitely want to continue to foster awareness and help the relief for victims,” he said.

“Although the Red Cross and other organizations were quickly saturated with funds shortly after their first appeals, keeping the level of awareness high will be crucial for the initial pledges to be honored,” Do said. “Therefore, after Spring Break, we will once again meet to assess our campaign and discuss other possible ways to help the victims of the tsunami in both the short and medium term.”

Jamal Aaron ’05, Christian Alexander ’06, Amber Ambrose ’07, Kelvin Coker ’06, Rachael Gross ’08, Nick Haslett ’06, Megan O’Neill ’07, and T. Patterson ’05 were the College models at the event. The Tsunami Relief Campaign asked some students to model, while others had to audition.

Most of the models said they participated because of the nature of the cause. “It seemed like a worthy cause,” Alexander said. “It also seemed like it would be fun. [The tsunami] was a major disaster. I believed that we should support the relief effort. I also think we should focus on other places [which need aid] as well.”

Gross said that she was glad to be involved in the show. “I was excited to participate,” she said. “It sounded like fun and it was a great cause.”

The request to be a model surprised some of the volunteers. “I was walking into Valentine and they asked me to be [a model],” said O’Neill, who modeled a kimono and a sari. “I was excited [to be asked]. I was nervous, but it was really fun pretending to be a model.”

Del Wright ’05, who announced for the event, was eager to help. “I thought it was for a great cause,” he said. “I thought it was really appropriate and really fitting that the fashions represented the countries that were affected. The DJ set [after the show] was also great. You do not really hear DJs of that caliber around here. The organizers did a great job.” The event’s organizers enjoyed themselves as much as the models in the end. “We enjoyed putting it together,” said Khan. “It was a lot of hard work, but everyone enjoyed themselves. It created a great sense of satisfaction for everyone involved.”

Dale du Preez ’07, one of the event’s organizers, was pleased with the success of Runway though the turnout was smaller than expected. “We made a decent amount of money,” he said.

“This was our big bash,” Fern said. “It was the one thing we thought would involve the entire community, spread awareness and raise funds. The point was to get the feeling of Asian culture. This was a great way of ending the Campaign. We’re so happy that all those students were willing to give their money straight to charity.”