The University of Maine Asian Student Association (ASA) held their annual Taste of Asia dinner on Saturday, April 9 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the North Pod of the Memorial Union.
Students from ASA, and other international student groups such as the Muslim Student Association and the International Student Association, helped serve food and collect donations.
“We invited the entire campus,” fourth-year zoology student and ASA President Anne Yu said. “A lot of this event has been made possible by our Student Heritage Alliance Council.”
As stated on their flyer, the free food represented traditional cuisine from Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, India and other Asian nations. The food was donated or purchased from restaurants in the local area.
“I always support the university and the Asian students. I think it’s a great cause,” Oriental Jade Co-Owner Lilian Lo said. “I feel like it’s a good event to get involved in.” Oriental Jade is a family business and was one of five restaurants that donated food to the event.
Other restaurants that participated were Thai Kitchen in Orono, Green Tea and Taste of India in Bangor and China Garden in Old Town.
A ticket raffle was held to benefit Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), a nonprofit organization that aids North Korean refugees by helping them resettle in safer countries. Currently the group, who is headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., has rescued 465 North Koreans. The organization also has chapters in southeast Asia and South Korea.
“We can change this picture from hopelessness to hopeful,” one of their promotional videos being played at the event said. “We spread the truth about North Korea to the world.”
The organization’s website states that it costs $3,000 to rescue one North Korean refugee. That money goes toward basic needs such as food or clothing, transportation to a safer country, temporary housing accommodations, rescue fees, contingency expenses and resettlement and empowerment assistance.
The organization also revealed that China is not a safe country for refugees, and Chinese authorities will arrest and forcibly return refugees to North Korea where they and their family will be punished.
“I have been in the Asian Student Association for two years,” third-year civil ASA Treasurer Pianpian Chen said. “It’s a huge event. There is a lot of Indian foods and Thai foods.”
Chen is a Chinese student from Hong Kong, and said that even though she is from Asia, she enjoys learning about foods from other Asian countries.
“Last year we had about 300 people,” Chen said. “This year it seems to be a little bit less than that.”
There were about 300 people at this event, and the long line stretched from the North Pod to the doors of the Class of 1944 Bear’s Den Cafe and Pub.
Two weeks ago, UMaine’s Office of Multicultural Student Life held Diversity Week, a series of events held by on campus student organizations who celebrate student heritage. The participating diversity organizations included the Muslim Student Association, the Heritage Club and the Student Heritage Alliance Council.
“[Taste of Asia] really a great event,” third-year mechanical engineering student Christopher Hill said. “It’s for a great cause and it’s nice to see everybody enjoying the free food.”
ASA credits the UMaine division of Student Life and UMaine Student Government, Inc. for helping them purchase food and have nearly $1,200 worth of Asian cuisine at the event.
ASA holds weekly meetings on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the FFA Room of the Memorial Union.