Help a godless young lady out

This is a rough situation: a graduate student from New Zealand, working here in the US, got that sorrowful phone call telling her that her father had died. You know how graduate students are — poor. So she needs some help, and is asking for donations. There are a lot of us, you know, so if we each chipped in just a little bit, we can help her through these difficult times.

I was a grad student once, and I also got that same sad phone call on the day after Christmas, 15 years ago. At least I didn’t have to fly to the other side of the world to say farewell.


  1. gabriel says

    If everyone chips in a bit we’ll get there. It’s a worthy cause for Pharyngulation.

  2. says

    hope everyone who can chips in. I was living in the U.P. once with no $ and had to get to philly for a funeral, all my friends chipped in to help me out. i never forgot it.

  3. Brownian, OM says

    After the holiday season and the deductible for a somewhat destructive attempted theft of my car on December 25 I’m a little tapped out, but I pitched in a bit.

    Indeed gabriel, a worthy cause for Pharyngulation.

  4. says

    In my opinion the largest threat for California are cataclysms and ecological catastrophes. Not important is how many money we have because one tragedy can us take all.

  5. says

    I don’t want to sound like an immense ass, but is this one of your graduate students, so you can vouch for the fact that it’s not an internet scam that has sucked you in, and by extension, your readers who have already contributed?

    I am highly leery of anyone who asks for money over the internet.

  6. says

    ‘Evolving Squid’ –

    I was going to post to say thanks ever so much to PZ for doing this for me, but I thought I would take occasion of your comment to speak to that as well.

    Your scepticism is certainly warranted (not to mention, aptly par for this blog, if I might be so forward), but I don’t really have anything to offer so much in proof. MAJeff, who has both posted and commented here, knows me in person, and I would consider him a good friend as well as a colleague in our discipline.

    You can go back in history on my blog (link via my name) to see that I have been a graduate student here in the states for a while. I can’t, of course, easily prove that my father just died and I need to get the money together to get back home to kiwiland, but I’m a big presence on such blogs as shakesville, and they can vouch for my word, as that is all I can offer. I wish I had something more concrete to give you.

    But to all those that have already given money, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I do think of such places as this as the community of the 21st Century.

    Thank you all, and especially PZ.

  7. Chris Doms says

    Squid – considering her blogging history, I’d have to say it would need to be a somewhat elaborate hoax for a few donations. As a fellow kiwi, I have pitched in.

  8. Jadehawk says

    that would be quite the patient scammer, considering the blog has over 300 entries and is 4 years old

  9. Baka says

    @Sarah in Chicago, I am very sorry for your loss, made all the harsher by the geographical and financial circumstances. Your friend who loaned you the money for the flight is, indeed, awesome. Hopefully my meager contribution will contribute to repaying your friend for a small part of that kindness. Get home safe and sound and be with your family.

  10. keafan says


    Glad to be able to help a kiwi get home and back under these circumstances.

    Thanks for the ‘heads up’ on her situation.

    We lived down there for a couple years in the late ’80s. Will never forget the friendly people that inhabit those beautiful islands.

  11. anon says

    I’ve been a tapped-out student years ago. I just got outbid on an ebay auction for something I don’t really need, so I’ll send some PayPal goodness along instead.
    Sarah, you have my condolences. I have no great words of consolation, just my observation that life really does go on. Best wishes to you.

  12. speedwell says

    I lost my dad last year about this same time. Be safe and try to enjoy the trip home. :)

  13. Jadehawk says

    good luck to you, and I hope you’ll get enough for a flight home. if I had more than $5.72 in my account, I’d help too.

  14. Annapolitan says

    Sarah, when I sent my donation thru Paypal, I forgot to add a personal note to you with my condolences. I am so very sorry for your loss.

    My dad died 20 years ago. I’ve been in your shoes, and I’m glad I could do something to get you home to be with your family.

  15. mlamb says

    I never ever will donate over the net; however, considering it is through Pharyngula, and I remember being a poor working stiff hashing my way into the world of pathology, I will donate. Sympathies, and I hope all works well for you and yours.

    From Wyoming,


  16. says

    Although I am unable to donate at this time, I want you to know that I feel for you and am so sorry for your loss. My hope is that this terrible time will yield positive things to sustain you through it. Again, I (and my partner) am very sorry.

    Take care, and be well.

  17. says

    My heartfelt condolences over the loss of your father, Sarah. I am touched to see so many people actively donating and helping her out, but I would also like to believe that her philosophical stance (atheism in this case) is irrelevant here, and that we would have helped and do help any student who would be unfortunate enough to be in the same shoes as Sarah, whether they are are atheists or not. :)

  18. says

    Well Sarah, I was basically made unemployed on the 1st December but I still managed to chip in a small amount. I know what it is like to be far from home and have something like this hit you.
    Be well and if you ever decide to jump the ditch and drop into Australia, let me know and I will shout a fellow ANZAC a beer and we will have it in honour of your Dad.

  19. pradeep says

    Money sent. Good luck to you and sorry to hear about the loss of your father. Hopefully fellow pharyngulites will be able to help you go back to NZ to attend to your family at this time.

  20. co says


    I got the call about my grandmother (103!) about 10 days ago, and got back from the funeral the other day. I hope your trip comes off, and is as remarkably enjoyable (family sure helps) as mine was. I was looking for a good use of my paypal balance.

  21. says

    I’ve been seeing Sarah In Chicago over at Shakesville for quite a while now. She appears to be a wonderful person, and I feel safe in vouching for her.

    Let’s do what we can to help her out!

  22. Falyne says

    I’d like to chime in, too, with the rest of the “Sarah is a Good Egg” chorus. And chipping in a little bit.

  23. Lee Picton says

    OK. Done. Sarah, I am sorry about your father; I hope the bit I sent along helps a little.

  24. Sean McCorkle says

    I lost my dad while in grad school too. Condolences and good luck with your degree.

  25. says

    My small gift comes to you in honor of your chosen scientific career and of your devotion to your family. This community is a real one, so go knowing that you are not alone.

  26. BlackBart says


    I have better things to do with money than to help fund someones burial observance.

  27. drdave says

    Re: BlackBart:

    With a name like “BB”, I can understand your hard hearted attitude.

    The rest of us are celebrating a life well lived and enabling the family in their celebration.

    You, on the other hand, are merely concerned with the hole in the ground. I gather it comes from looking down, rather than looking up.

    Cheers to the Kiwi.

  28. BGT says

    Hey all, as a lurker here (I am sure somehow PZ could vouch for that, along with occasional schlossed postings here) I would say that we should donate.


    Well, hell, the fundies always pat themselves on the back for sending funds to folks who might only get a third of the cash. (You all know these charities, so I won’t go into them here.) Damnit, if we are going to be suckered, shouldn’t we be suckered into a charity that we are fairly sure gives the majority of our cash to our potential huckster?

    Instead of fooling ourselves that the person who is on the receiving end will not be an “administrator” of the charity?

    I have seen plenty of $5 donations, so let’s keep that up. Hell, we spend more than that at McDonald’s for breakfast.

    Sarah, I don’t know if you have the capacity to do so or not, or hell, even the time, but if you could put up a counter, I know that would go a good ways to keeping this legion of skeptics at bay.

    And, if there were any leftovers, a donation to a good humanist cause.

    And Sarah, I remember what it is like to try to book a fligh (from Houston to Memphis) to try to be there for a loved one’s funeral. I wish you good luck in gathering the funds. And no Sarah, I do not think you are a huckster. I am trying to shame the crowd here into supporting you. And yes, they should know that, but they should also remember our evolutionary impulse to support the tribe as well. ;)

  29. jorge666 says


    While I support your right to express your opinion, there are some things that should have been left unsaid. I felt that the tone of the post left quite a bit to be desired when a person has lost a loved one. To simplify, I felt it was quite rude, but that’s just me. I like to get along with folks.
    Even though I have been without steady employment for a year – Love that Bush Economy – I was still able to scrape up a five spot so that she can at least get a soda or something on the aircraft.

    I nursed my mother who had lung cancer for the 17 days between the DX and her passing in October, so I have a healthy respect for the suddeness of a life ending though I did have a bit of warning, but it is never enough.

    Sarah I hope you and your family can create some new traditions for the the future.

    Another one of PZ’s Millions of Minions
    PZ’s recommendation is good enough for me and my family

  30. jorge666 says

    Hey Y’all,

    We have either been there or will be there at one time or another. We have one of our fellow humans in need. As far as I am concerned, there have been plenty of trustworthy people who have vouched for her. This looks like the real deal to me.

    If you are of a charitable bent, please consider helping this visitor to our country (yes I am American…) and show her what REAL American hospitality is like.

    Thanks for the Soapbox,


  31. says

    I just did a post to call attention to this. I don’t have your readership (who does?), but I’ll do what I can to get the word out.

  32. nematodirus says

    Long time lurker and (very) occasional poster……

    PZ, thanks for giving this some publicity. It’s nice to be able to contribute to a cause where you know that your money is going to do some real good.

    I start my new job on monday (and in this economic climate too !) at the Royal Veterinary College (London) my old alma mater, after a year off work due to illness. As life is being good to me at the moment after some recent terrible times, helping out someone who is currently having a crap time feels like a good use of my meagre resources.

    Regards, and Happy Monkey to all at Pharymgula…….

  33. fester60613 says

    I’m very touched by the outpouring of sympathy for this girl.

    However, lacking PZ’s personal advocacy, I wonder how many of us would have seen this as a scam?

  34. recovering catholic says

    I think the possibility of a scam jumped to all our minds. I also think that many of us independently tried to determine if it was legit, and if we couldn’t, trusted that PZ had vetted the young woman. It’s as important to have some people we trust as it is to be skeptical, in my opinion…

  35. says

    Losing a parent sucks any time of the year, but it’s an even tougher pill to swallow during a time that is supposed to be about family and solidarity.

    It actually didn’t even occur to me that it could be a scam until after I donated and read some of the comments here. It could be that I’ve drunk PZ’s kool-aid and trust that he wouldn’t endorse such an action unless he had fairly good reason to believe it was legit.

    Do I have to hand my secret skeptical decoder ring back in? :)

  36. llewelly says

    BGT, #40:

    Well, hell, the fundies always pat themselves on the back for sending funds to folks who might only get a third of the cash.

    Someone who donates because there is a genuine need will make a judgement based on whether that need is real before donating.
    Someone who donates to win a competition will primarily consider whether donating will help them win the competition.
    The later sort of thinking is more likely to donate when there’s no clear evidence of a need, simply because need isn’t their primary reason.
    Donating because she needs the money is a good reason. Donating to out compete ‘the fundies’ is foolish.

  37. jorge666 says

    Reference #53

    Grassroots/Internet contributions elected Mr. Obama, so why could’t it ‘fly’ for someone who really shares our outlook on the overall scheme of the universe???

    What the heck, I opened my butterfly collection I call a wallet…Those butterflies needed to fly south for the winter anyway.

    Changing the world one person at a time. It may take a while, but it does work.

  38. says

    Did my bit for Sarah, from Scotland.

    What’s with #38? He doesn’t want to contribute…no problem with that…but why the need to tell us all?


  39. says

    My grandfather died one week before Christmas. I know how devastated Sarah must feel, and to have to worry about a financial burden on top of everything else is something she shouldn’t have to do.

    Contribution made.

  40. JenWolf says

    I would contribute if my bank balance wasn’t dangerously close to zero right now. I lost my grandfather a year ago, right before xmas. I sympathize with your loss Sarah, and I really wish I could do more than just offer virtual hugs.

  41. An Atheist says

    You put your foot in your mouth there, professor. If there’s no life after death, why did you say your father goodbye?

  42. speedwell says

    I’ll throw an extra 20 in on behalf of a few of those who would like to, but can’t, contribute even a pittance. I know what it’s like to not have enough for the basics, and I feel fortunate to be able to say, for once in my life, that I won’t miss the money. So what, I’ll put off that dinner and paperback till I get paid again.

  43. karen says

    I pitched in $15. That’s all I can spare right now on my limited budget. I’ve lost both my parents, and I got that unexpected call about my dad. If Sarah ends up with an excess, I hope she puts it toward another trip home at a future time, under better circumstances. It’ll help with the healing. My deepest condolences on your loss, Sarah. Have a safe flight, and be well. And check with the airlines about bereavement flights. It may help lower the cost.

  44. says

    An Atheist (comment 59): a funeral doesn’t need to be about seeing the deceased in to the afterlife. It is a celebration of the life that the person lived, in part for the sake of those who loved the person, and in part because it’s just nice to know that those who love us will remember us and celebrate our life, even if we can’t observe it.

    That, along with comment #38, shows that atheists can be just as dick-headed as Christians.

  45. Leni says

    You put your foot in your mouth there, professor. If there’s no life after death, why did you say your father goodbye?

    Because when someone is dying it is customary to say things like “Goodbye”, “Thanks for everything you’ve done for us” and “We love you and we’ll miss you”.

    It has nothing do with the afterlife and everything to do with this life. I didn’t get that opportunity with my dad when he was dying and it will probably be the biggest disappointment of my life.

    Please try to show a little respect and don’t belittle the loss of others by pretending their pain has anything to do with your religious belief.

  46. Janine says

    Posted by: An Atheist | January 3, 2009

    You put your foot in your mouth there, professor. If there’s no life after death, why did you say your father goodbye?

    You are an ass and I doubt that you are an atheist. Funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living. It is about remembering that our time is brief. It is about trying to provide comfort for each other. It is about honoring the person who is gone. It is a cold comfort. Humans grieves their loses. Deal with it you jackass.

    And how dare you leave such words on a thread that was meant to comfort a grieving person. You lack manners.

  47. says

    You put your foot in your mouth there, professor. If there’s no life after death, why did you say your father goodbye?

    Yes of course. All emotional attachment to people goes away when they die.

    What a evil little toad you are.

  48. says

    Happy to chip in. Keep your chin up, Sarah.

    BB, An Atheist – I’m assuming you’re the same person – I’m with the Rev. You’re a dick.

  49. jorge666 says

    “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”

    John Lennon – smart man

    May your jouney be safe and healthy Sarah.

  50. Brain Hertz says


    My sincerest condolences, Sarah in Chicago. I hope that you get what you need to make the trip.

    @ BB & AA… Oy. WTF?

  51. Flo says

    Read. Donated.

    It’s easy to feel the need to say, instead of “Thank God”,

    “Thank you Internet and Blogs and PayPal and all”, for making much of this technically possible at all in the first place;
    “thank you PZ”, for the post that might have become the single most helpful one ever;
    and “thank you Pharyngula/ScienceBlogs community” – until today I (and surely many other readers) had never heard of Sarah before, and now my small donation and many others help her (re)finance that important trip.
    Or, generally, in Daniel Dennett’s words, “Thank goodness!”.

    And yet I think that whether anyone here or on other websites donates because of, or without, or because of lack of, belief in anything supernatural, should NOT be an issue in this thread. Something terrible happened to Sarah’s family; she needs to be with them; she had the courage to ask for help; and any good HUMAN (not scientist or Atheist or believer or American or Kiwi or whatever) who can afford to help will do so. It’s as simple as that.

  52. says

    Done. Being a graduate student myself and owing more money than I can comprehend for flying a similar distance in similar time frames, I can completely understand the fiscal stress behind this.

    Good luck to Sarah. I hope she is doing well now.

    For the most part all of you have made me happy to be alive today. Seeing the caring here makes me feel all warm.

  53. says

    I had less than $2 against my overdraft limit. Still, it’s the best use to which I could put it.

    Otherwise, I’d just have spent it all on meth.

  54. says

    I had less than $2 against my overdraft limit. Still, it’s the best use to which I could put it.

    Otherwise, I’d just have spent it all on meth.

    To Sarah; my condolences, and best wishes for a safe journey.

  55. Dave says

    as a (Canadian) libertarian who is mostly amused by your anti Atlas Shrugged and communist points of view, Pease let me know how I might help out. My Grandmother has recently passed on and I will be heading out tomorrow to attend her service. But I would like to help. My e-mail is


  56. Dave says

    I see on her link that a Canadian “location” doesn’t appear to be an alternative…. hence my post above.


  57. Anon Ymous says

    Sent $50. I haven’t noticed SiC commenting here too much, but she’s a big voice on Shakesville…

    (Actually, I stopped reading all the comments here when the average thread length rose way up in the triple digits… used to read every comment, way back when…)

    Wish i could afford to contribute more, but even $50 is AUD$74 because of the d*mned global economic crisis… grrr…

  58. chuckgoecke says

    If any one is worried that she might actually get more than enough to cover her travel(wouldn’t that be wonderful), what poor grad student couldn’t use a little extra money. Imagine real hamburger instead of Mac and cheese or beans once in a while.

  59. Jac Royce says

    Thanks for posting this, PZ. Crashing polls is fun and all, but actually helping another human being is far more emotionally rewarding. I’ve had two deaths in my family over the last two weeks, and helping Kiwi Girl feels very good to me.

  60. Kseniya says

    “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”

    John Lennon – smart man

    Yes, but FWIW – I believe that was a McCartney line.

  61. jorge666 says

    81 Kseniya

    Very Well Could Be, but Lennon – McCarney – kinda the same difference at the time, eh?

    And If I stand corrected, then so be it. NP

    Regardless— dey b some fabulous songwriters and expresses my thoughts completely. Just lost my mother to lung cancer. She took alot of love with her. Now we just have to make sure that our children are loved as much as she loved my brothers & sisters.

  62. Martin says

    As a fellow athiest LGBT Kiwi stuck in North America, I gave you what I could, Sarah. Kia Kaha.
    I would have found it hard to stick my hand out at a time like this – and during your grad studies as well. Try to enjoy a tough time back home. Let the NZ sun filter through the pohutakawa trees onto you and take some time to celebrate your Dad.