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When images of the Asian tsunami’s devastation appeared in the media, Kathleen Squires Rodriguez ’88 felt she couldn’t stand by and do nothing. So she and her husband traveled to Thailand to spend two weeks helping with relief efforts.

“We appreciated how many people from all over the world reached out to our home, New York City, after 9/11, a disaster on a much smaller scale,” she says. “It was our way of giving back.”

After arriving, it took two days of nearly non-stop phone calls to finally connect with a volunteer organization. They eventually got to work through United Volunteers.

“I was surprised at how much help was needed, and how much an extra pair of hands could accomplish. I was also surprised at how much the Thai people wanted a return to normalcy — that despite the tragedy and the aftermath they not only needed, but also wanted, tourism back,” Rodriguez says.

The couple worked on Bangtao beach in Phuket, cleaning up debris, helping a family rebuild its home, creating recreation areas for local children, and helping small businesses rebuild. In one case, Rodriguez reconstructed walls for beach bungalows.

As a freelance writer, the English graduate is a regular contributor to many publications, including Real Simple, Gourmet, The New York Post, Time Out New York, and Paper.

“Professors (Suzanne) Westfall and (Patricia) Donahue gave me the encouragement and tools necessary to become a full-time writer,” she says. “The entire English department at Lafayette was essential in my career path, first with several years as a book editor and now as a writer.”

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles