story | Genessa Chew, Contributing Reporter

photo | Al Lim, Photo Contributor

 

More than 480 lives have been lost to the 2018 Kerala floods, and 1.2 million people have been displaced from their homes. While the state is accustomed to seasonal monsoon rain, local residents and authorities were unprepared for this year’s unprecedented rainfall (40% more than average).

In response to the disaster, a few students and staff from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Yale-NUS College took it upon themselves to initiate relief efforts for the victims of this disaster. One such effort was the #NUSmapathon.

Al Lim ’19, an Urban Studies major at Yale-NUS, Vithya D/O Subramaniam, Teaching Assistant in the South Asian Department, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Feng Yikang, Librarian at the NUS Digital Scholarship Lab, organized a mapping event to contribute geospatial data to aid disaster relief efforts.

The mapathon garnered the support of 65 volunteers who put in a collective 75 man-hours. Together, they mapped 3080 buildings on the afternoon of Aug. 24.

Mapping involves translating data from aerial photographs and satellite images into universally understandable maps. The floods have dramatically changed the landscape of Kerala. Spatial data of the flooded area helps humanitarian efforts better understand the conditions of the affected areas and more effectively plan their operations on the ground.

Gathered in a library room, participants from NUS and Yale-NUS traced buildings onto satellite maps, which was intended to help local rescue teams in their planning.

Zhu Xinyu ’22, one of the participants of the mapathon, found this event particularly meaningful. “The mapathon reminded me how we are able to use our curiosity, time, and skills to make a difference, even in faraway places. I thoroughly enjoyed this event and am looking forward to engaging in more activities to develop my global citizenship,” she said.

YNDUS: South Asian Student Society also pulled together an event to help the victims of Kerala. With the support of the Dean of Students (DOS) Office, members of YNDUS organized a fundraiser for the flood victims.

The live music, good food, and spirit of charity attracted overwhelming support. The sales of Samosas, Bhel Chai and other snacks for a recommended donation of $2.50 per serving amounted to a total of $419 in donations by the end of the night. The proceeds were equally split between the Kerala Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode’s Relief Fund.

Two of the organizers of the fundraiser, Sidharth Praveen ’21 and Siddharth Chatterjee ’21, know family and friends who were affected by the floods. They were both heartened by the generosity received from fellow organizers, attendees, the DOS Office, musicians and even the vendor, who gave the organizers a discount for the food they purchased for the event.

“It was really a wholesome experience to see people collectively contributing to such a cause. Easily the happiest day I’ve spent at Yale-NUS,” said Sidharth. “I think that we as a community should do more of these social events whenever we can.”

Siddharth encourages other students to “just do it” and trust in the generosity of the community if they ever consider doing similar events in the future. He added that at Yale-NUS, “If you ask for help, people will help.”

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