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Penn Students Helping Tsunami Victims in Sri Lanka

For 18 students at Penn, donating money to help the victims of the December 2004 tsunami was not enough. So in May, they’ll join a two-week Habitat for Humanity project in Sri Lanka to help build houses, visit schools, and rebuild lives.

The group has been assigned to construct houses on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka and make a school visit to meet with the students and deliver school supplies from the Penn community. Upon arrival, the group will receive training in home construction; once they’ve completed their instruction, they will work between 10 and 12 hours each day in rebuilding houses. At the end of their visit, the group will have two days to experience the Sri Lankan culture.

The Penn trip was originally devised by Sumit Kadakia, a Wharton sophomore. When he brought it to Delta Sigma Pi, the international coed professional fraternity, the response of his brothers was enthusiastic. Assured of student interest, Mr. Kadakia completed a Habitat for Humanity leadership training course in Washington D.C. Delta Sigma Pi members then held an on-campus information session for interested Penn students and then chose project participants through an extensive application process. 

The group is currently working to arrange transportation, raise money, meet passport requirements, obtain necessary tools, and ensure that they are in sufficient physical shape for the trip.

Mr. Kadakia has been working closely with members of the Penn Tsunami Education Relief Steering Committee and anticipates that the University will be significantly subsidizing the trip as part of its efforts to help rebuild educational infrastructure in the region.

Other members of Delta Sigma Pi helping to organize this effort are Amanda Bicofsky, Venus Chan, Ishreth Hassen, Valerie Ho, Gavin Lazarus, Daniel Maloney, Sejal Patel, Edward Paulsson, Jessica Petrus and Keith Timko.

Amanda Bicofsky, a Wharton freshman who is participating in the trip­, said, “We chose to participate in this program with Habitat because we believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to give back by actually getting in there with our hands, while immersing ourselves in the rich culture of another country.”

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit organization that builds houses around the world. Since it was founded in 1976, it has helped build more than 175,000 homes for more than 750,000 people around the world.  The organization is composed of local affiliate chapters that choose individuals to build houses through an application process. The houses are constructed using donated funds and materials and then sold to families at no profit. The families who receive the houses do not get them for free; rather they have to pay the mortgage and assist in the construction of the house.

Several Penn student organizations are financially supporting the group’s fundraising efforts and Club Singapore has just committed $1,600 towards the trip from their recent Chinese New Year Food Fest event. Those interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to support this trip should contact Amanda Bicofsky at



  Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 30, April 26, 2005


April 26, 2005
Volume 51 Number 30


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