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PROFILE: Born A World Away From Cincinnati, Student Calls UC His Home Away From Home

Rishi Khar is one of the students planning events for UC’s annual spring Worldfest celebration.

Date: 5/2/2005 8:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot
Rishi Khar

Rishi Khar was visiting family on his UC holiday break in Hyderabad, India, last December when the devastating tsunami struck his country. “Initially, on the morning news, the reported death toll was relatively low. But as the hours progressed, it was horrifying to see how the numbers rose as we heard what had happened in other areas like Indonesia.”

Though originally from Kashmir, Khar’s family is located in Hyderabad, away from the coast, so they were spared from the immediate impact of the disaster. Yet, the UC doctoral student wanted to help on a global scale. The UC student chapter of Association for India’s Development (AID) was one of the student organizations taking part in the university-wide effort to raise money for tsunami relief last winter, a fund-raising collaboration between UC, Xavier and Northern Kentucky University. The Association for India’s Development, of which Khar is president, raised more than $4,000 from an international cuisine buffet dinner that students organized at Music Hall, in partnership with the Sri Lankan Students Association, Just Community and Peace Village. In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, before winter quarter began, AID organized a candlelight vigil on Fountain Square to mourn the victims of the disaster. Khar adds that volunteers from AID had diligently helped the relief efforts in the affected regions.

It was a tragedy that brought the world together in organizing relief efforts, and the world impact of the disaster will also be explored as part of UC’s annual spring Worldfest observance. As an AID volunteer, Khar says he’s the student voice on a university committee to examine long-term UC involvement in tsunami relief and experiential learning.  AID is sponsoring a tsunami relief seminar from 4-6 p.m. Monday, May 2, in the Engineering Research Center, Room 427. Srinivas Mirle, a P&G scientist and longtime AID volunteer, will share his experience of assisting victims in the tsunami-affected areas, as will Professor of Social Work Steven Sunderland, who traveled with a delegation to Indonesia in March to promote peace and healing in the region.

Rishi Khar

“Dr. Mirle has been visiting the affected villages and visiting with children there, and one of the major interests of AID is in helping the children. They have been orphaned, many have lost siblings and classmates – their education is affected by the tsunami. Dr. Mirle has been working toward helping the children continue their education,” says Khar.

He adds that Social Work Professor Steve Sunderland’s presentation will examine his spring break trip to the region with a Cincinnati delegation. Sunderland, a grief counselor, worked to train educators and health professionals in grief methods.

As West Campus representative of the Graduate Student Governance Association (GSGA) and a member of the International Students Concerns Committee, Khar is continuing to support relief efforts by organizing “Salsa Night” fund-raiser on Sunday, May 8, from 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. in the Great Hall.

Taste of India 2004
Taste of India 2004 (Photo provided by AID)

Also as part of Worldfest, AID celebrates the world community on UC’s campus with its traditional Taste of India event and a film presentation that starts at noon on Sunday, May 8, in the Great Hall. This year, Khar says the food festival is a free event that will also feature cultural displays and performances. The AID organizers are expecting as many as 800 people to attend this year.

Here at UC, Khar is a representative of the more than 2,500 people from 100 different countries who come to UC each year to study, teach, research, lecture and perform. He has earned two master’s degrees from UC – one in industrial engineering and one in quantitative analysis from the College of Business. His doctoral degree also focuses on quantitative analysis.

His first trip to the university five-and-one-half years ago was his first experience in the United States, and he calls UC his home away from home. “People here have been very warm and very kind. People like me may feel a bit hesitant here at first as we become adjusted to a different culture, but I have had a very good experience here at the University of Cincinnati.”

Khar adds that he sees how the community embraces UC’s many cultures through past Worldfest Taste of India events. “You would think an event like that would draw a large number of Indian students, but it’s really half-and-half,” he says. “The people in the local community are very curious about Indian culture and Indian food, so they take great interest in coming to the program and in enjoying it.”

View the full Worldfest schedule.

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