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Children's Aid

Youths Touched by Plight of Tsunami Victims Get Creative With Giving

By Maria Glod and Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 23, 2005; Page C01

Alyssa Lokie decided to take her babysitting earnings -- about $40 -- and add them to the collection her classmates at Blue Ridge Middle School started to help people in countries devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami. She heard about children who were orphaned by the massive waves, and it just didn't seem right to spend the money on new shoes or clothes.

The 13-year-old isn't alone. One classmate, Lexie Pollock, 12, dipped into her allowance savings and donated $30. Another, Paul Rose, 11, gave $10.70 that had collected over the years in a cup near his grandmother's washing machine. On Thursday, a parent tossed in a $1,000 check, bringing the tsunami relief collection at the rural Purcellville school to more than $11,000, the most it has ever raised for charity.

Michael Beall, a fifth-grader at St. Peter's School in Waldorf, and his classmates make bracelets to send overseas to victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami. (Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)

"There are so many kids who don't have anybody left. They are all just alone," Alyssa said. "Hopefully this will help get their lives going again."

In the days since the Dec. 26 tsunami, which killed more than 157,000 people in 11 countries, the stories and images from the hardest-hit areas have spurred private donors to give hundreds of millions to U.S. charities. And while much of the money has come from corporations and adults, children and teenagers across the Washington region, and the country, are pitching in, too -- doing everything from breaking their piggy banks to organizing elaborate fundraisers.

"This is a mission like none we've ever had," said Lindsay Trout, a special education and leadership class teacher at South Lakes High School in Reston.

Students at George Mason High School in Falls Church raised more than $30,000 with fundraising events that included a silent auction, a battle of the bands and a white elephant sale. Children at St. Mark's School in Hyattsville are collecting donations through the end of the month for completing a 100-problem "math-a-thon." And Boy Scout coeducational Venturing Crew 761 and Girl Scout Troop 2485, both of Sterling, went door-to-door and came back with about $2,000.

"Kids want to get involved," said 13-year-old Moni Sallam, an eighth-grader at Folly Quarter Middle School in Ellicott City. He has raised at least $3,000 by selling light-blue tsunami relief awareness bracelets to friends and family. His goal is to collect $12,000 more.

"I don't have to know someone to help them," he said. "I see the pain that they're suffering from in all the pictures and news coverage."

Denell Davis, 17, a senior at South Lakes, emptied the mayonnaise jar she used to collect spare change and approached her classmates during lunch and asked them to donate. "I say, 'Do you really want to get a Gatorade or do you want to help someone in South Asia?' " she said.

The strategy worked: As of last week, she and her classmates had raised about $5,426 by collecting donations in the cafeteria, at Reston Town Center and at two Safeway stores. It's a method that Sammy Kingsley, a 17-year-old senior at Langley High School in McLean, dubbed a "positive form of peer pressure."

"If your friends give $10, you're going to give $15," she said. "We're not asking to give your life savings. A small contribution from everyone can add up to a lot."

Kingsley said the tsunami has been the topic of conversation in many of her classes: In environmental science, students discussed the impact on the fishing industry in India; in current events, they read the personal accounts and followed the rising death toll; and in her leadership class, they talked about America's military response to the disaster. For some students, it was a reminder of how lucky they are to have so much -- and how much they have to lose.

"It's so tragic that it's impossible to ignore," she said. "You feel horrible that you're sitting in this nice school and you're going home to a gorgeous home. If you can't help out a little, it says a lot about your character."

Langley has raised about $12,000 through pledges at a basketball game against rival McLean High School and lunchtime solicitations.

Most schools and other youth groups are giving the cash they raise to major relief organizations. For example, the money raised by the South Lakes students will go to World Vision, and the donations from Blue Ridge Middle School will be split between the American Red Cross and UNICEF.

Fairfax County schools generally do not allow schools to raise money for charities. But officials said students and teachers at so many schools wanted to participate in the tsunami relief efforts that the district has allowed it.

Not all the efforts involve monetary donations. Students at St. Peter's School in Waldorf are saying prayers for victims of the disaster as they make bracelets out of beads and string that they hope to send to children overseas, along with some financial aid. At Arlington's Gunston Middle School, students have put together hygiene kits, including toothpaste, soap, combs and hand towels. Children at Mount Eagle Elementary School in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County are donating books, construction paper, glue and folders and are making bookmarks to send along with the supplies.

At Howard High School in Ellicott City, students in Gretta DeMannato's advanced placement government class sacrificed their doughnut party to the cause. The event was supposed to celebrate their collection of $720 in one week for the relief effort -- the most of any class. But the students decided that the money for the party should go to tsunami victims instead of Dunkin' Donuts.

"I think these real-life teachable moments are what is left with the kids," said John Fitz, a marine science teacher who helped the students organize the fundraiser. "They may not remember your best lesson as a teacher. But I think getting involved in something that has impacted the world in such a way, this is something they're going to remember 10 years from now."

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