On Saturday evening, the soft sound of the Yale Glee Club emanated from the balcony of Woolsey Hall, breaking a moment of silence at a benefit concert in support of the millions of victims of the recent flooding in Pakistan.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller called for the moment of silence at the end of her opening address, urging the audience to meditate on “the losses of those who wait, and who wait for us to act.”
The Yale College Dean’s Office, working with various student groups and administrators, organized the benefit, called “Help Can’t Wait — Pakistan Relief Concert,” to raise money to support people in Pakistan whose lives have been uprooted by the natural disaster, which the United Nations estimated has left more than 21 million people injured or homeless. About 750 students and community members attended the two-hour event, where 17 dance, music and other acts performed, including the Yale Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Concert Band, and professional South Asian musicians, dancers and singers.
University Chaplain Sharon Kugler said the event raised $11,000, which organizers will donate to Karachi Relief, UNICEF and the Red Cross.
“I was so very heartened by the number of students who came out and dug deep into their pockets to give so generously to the people of Pakistan,” Kugler said in an e-mail.
Zheela Qaiser ’11, co-president of Yalies for Pakistan, said the event’s organizers were happy with the turnout, though she had hoped to match the $27,000 raised by a benefit for victims of the earthquake in Haiti last January.
“We raised $11,000 probably because of lack of awareness and because the American media has not been covering the floods,” Qaiser ’11 said in an e-mail.
The Yale Concert Band opened the show with the rousing march, “Hands Across the Sea” by John Philip Sousa, and then selected the slower, but hopeful melody of “Pacem” by Robert Spittal. The other musical acts echoed this trend, alternating between upbeat, inspiring pieces and more poignant songs.
Director of Yale Bands Thomas Duffy announced each act. He said the organizers purposefully avoided spending money on anything that could divert from the cause, pointing out the “Spartan” programs and the sparse set.
Attendees were asked to donate $20 at the door, with Yale students receiving a $10 discount. Throughout the evening, Duffy gave the audience updates on how much money had been raised, and urged audience members to give more. About halfway through the event, students walked through the aisles with collection bowls.
Yalies for Pakistan participated in the show with an act in which each group member read a statistic about the disaster as a slideshow of scenes from Pakistan projected behind them. One student called the situation “a test of our humanity as global citizens,” and the final speaker thanked the audience members for attending the event.
Several students and student groups performed traditional Pakistani dances, such as the Yale Jashan Bhangra Team. In a whirl of bright colors, the dancers jumped across the stage to the delight of the enthusiastic audience, which clapped along to the beat. In contrast, “A Different Drum Dance Company” performed a moving act that mixed ballet and more modern dance moves.
Duffy said organizers of the event were already in the process of planning another “Help Can’t Wait” event in January, on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, though they have not decided where proceeds from the event will be donated. Kugler said in an e-mail that the plans included combining community service and other commemorative activities to offer a large-scale benefit concert that Sunday evening.