A memorial fund to aid the widow of a deceased graduate student is approaching $2,000 and continues to grow.
This past summer, University of Calgary chemical engineering graduate student Kulada Karmaker passed away after suddenly falling ill. Soon after, family friend and electrical engineering student Debashis Chanda, along with fellow graduate student Naresh Bajaj approached the Graduate Students' Association to find a way to help Karmaker's wife, Rita. The result was the Kulada Karmaker Memorial Fund, which has now earned $1,850.
According to GSA Vice-President Internal Kevin Douglas, Rita is grateful for contributions so far.
"I think she's very touched by the generosity by people," Douglas said. "She's very appreciative, but she's also still in mourning."
Of the money raised to date, $200 came from the GSA, and $1,000 from the Gauntlet. The rest has been donated mostly by students. The GSA is also looking to pass a motion to add $300 to their contribution, a decision that will be made over the next month.
Rita found herself in a particularly burdensome financial situation after her husband's death, as they both depended on his scholarship funding. Both were international students and Karmaker didn't have life insurance. Rita is also expecting to give birth early next year, which will make matters even more stressful.
She will likely begin to receive the money around the same time.
"[Rita] feels that the money she's making at her part-time job should be enough until then, but that would be the time we would think about giving her a large portion of what we've collected," said Douglas.
Money for the fund has been coming slower than Chanda hoped for. Last month, Chanda told the Gauntlet, "as far as I can say it is not good enough. I don't think [students] are taking the proper initiative."
However, Douglas added the response is appreciated, especially coming from students facing financial situations of their own.
"You're doing your part no matter how much you put in," Douglas said. "Sometimes you can't, and that's just a fact of life."
After the formation of the fund, Douglas also said the GSA would examine whether life insurance should be offered in addition to existing health and dental benefits. Douglas explained this will be a decision made after a long process or research and debate, and they are investigating a number of options. These options include offering it directly through the GSA, or taking a more educational approach, explaining the need for such insurance and connecting interested students with life insurance providers.
Donations to the Kulada Karmaker Memorial Fund are still accepted, and can be made in person at the GSA offices at MacEwan Student Centre 350. Cheques can be made payable to the Graduate Students' Association, with a memo mentioning the fund.