Student's 'Smeal for Chile' effort raising funds for disaster relief

University Park, Pa. -- For more than a day after the massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked Chile on Feb. 27, Penn State student Phillip Jarpa and his wife, Veronica Barros, both from Chile, worked tirelessly to get in touch with their family there. Because of the destruction caused by the earthquake, telephones weren’t working and neither was e-mail.

“It took us 26 hours to actually get in touch with everybody. It was a hard time,” Jarpa said. “After we got in touch with our family, we decided to do something.”

In response, Jarpa, a student in the master of business administration (MBA) program in Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, and his wife started “Smeal for Chile,” an organization focused on raising money for the Chilean relief effort. Through a combination of cash donations and an ongoing T-shirt sale, the group has raised $3,600. Their goal is to raise $10,000 by a soft deadline of April 1.

“This is a way for people to lend a helping hand to a country that has always had close ties to the U.S.,” Jarpa said. “There’s just so much to do; the magnitude of this is going to carry on for years. Help is still needed.”

All money collected through these efforts will be donated to a campaign called Chile ayuda a Chile (Chile helping Chile), run by Teleton, a Chilean foundation which normally focuses on raising money for children with disabilities but has broadened its focus in light of the earthquake. The earthquake killed hundreds of people and caused billions of dollars in damage to Chile’s infrastructure.

Jarpa said initial outreach occurred within the MBA program at the college and also on the social networking Web site Facebook. He said the T-shirt sale will continue and there are plans for several auctions, which will be announced soon.

Dennis Sheehan, associate dean for MBA and executive education at the Smeal College of Business, worked with Jarpa early on in the process to name the project “Smeal for Chile,” in hopes that it would give the effort even more focus.

“Phillip is one of the most enthusiastic and energetic guys you’ll run across,” Sheehan said. “I jumped in and said I would be happy to contribute and said I loved the idea that he was taking the lead (on the establishment of a fundraising effort).”

The MBA program has had student groups visit Santiago, Chile, in the past as a part of the program’s ongoing Global Immersion effort, so students and faculty alike have familiarity with the country. In fact, a group of 29 students and one faculty member were en route to Santiago as a part of the Global Immersion program at the time of the earthquake and had to be rerouted back to the U.S.

Jarpa said his focus now is on expanding the scope of the project outside of the Smeal College of Business and to the Penn State community as a whole.

“If somebody has thought about Chile, has been there before, has seen its beauty or can identify with the country on some level and really wants to lend a hand, this is a very easy way for them to do so,” Jarpa said. “We call ourselves ‘a small initiative with a big heart.’ ”

Those interested in making a donation or ordering T-shirts should contact Jarpa at prj107@psu.edu. Donations also will be accepted by mail at the group’s address, P.O. Box 10343, State College, PA 16805. Checks should be made out to Smeal for Chile. To learn more about Smeal for Chile, visit http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=334826748275 online.

Last Updated November 18, 2010