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January 14, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, January 14, 2005

Tsunami relief stories Tsunami relief stories (January 14, 2005)

Extraordinary effort being made to help disaster victims

By Roseanne G. Pereira

Within a week after the tsunami hit Indian Ocean coastlines, local people went far and wide to help those in need. One led the Navy in Indonesia, one extended a trip to India and a married couple started a Web site to help people in their homeland.
Flying copters, running food

For Michael Horan, a husband and father of two, helping the relief effort was part of the job. As a Navy commander of a helicopter squadron aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, Horan is working in the Banda Aceh province in Indonesia.

Horan, who grew up in Mountain View and graduated from St. Francis High School, was returning to the U.S. from Hong Kong when the tsunami hit.

Horan's squadron was the first to reach Indonesia. When Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush first toured the area, Horan was "the guy flying them around," said his father Tom Horan.

Horan maintains e-mail contact with his parents, Tom and Mary Horan, who live in Mountain View. In a Jan. 3 e-mail, Horan described what he saw:

"Today I ran food and water to an isolated village and picked up five gents walking in the middle of nowhere. They looked like they rode the 'Wave' and the docs said they were a day or two away from dying. The TV reports of total devastation are an understatement, there is absolutely nothing left on the Western Sumatra coast."

While the Horans are disappointed about their son's indefinite delay in returning home, they call it a worthwhile sacrifice.

"The need is so great; they're pumped up that they're helping so many people," said Tom Horan.
Donating to Sri Lankans

When news of the disaster hit, Janaka and Nisansala Ranatunga, a Sri Lankan couple now living in Mountain View, responded immediately.

Motivated by the deaths of relatives in Sri Lanka, the couple set up a Web site, www.uslankan.org, that allows U.S. citizens to donate to the Karuna Trust, a nonprofit organization helping tsunami victims in Sri Lanka.

The Web site has so far raised $40,000, mostly from Americans based in the Bay Area. As rebuilding begins, information will be posted on the Karuna Trust Web site at www.karunalanka.org to keep people abreast of the progress.

"The objective is to build 30 new homes in Sri Lanka, where 200,000 houses have been destroyed. We hope to eventually rebuild an entire village," said Janaka.

The Karuna Trust works with the Sri Lankan government to pick sites for reconstruction. The trust's primary areas for rebuilding include the district of Jaffna in the north and Galle in the south.

The Ranatungas and their friends have also hosted fund-raisers at a local temple and will soon be selling bumper stickers that say, "I support Tsunami Relief," as well as dark blue wristbands.

After the initial building is complete, the Karuna Trust will concentrate on furnishing the homes and helping people who lost their jobs as a result of the tsunami to get back on their feet, said Nisansala.

"I love Sri Lanka -- you won't believe how we felt that day. I want to help as much as I can," she said.
Yoga, then volunteering

Los Altos resident Sidney Ridgway was attending a yoga clinic in Pondicherry, India when the disaster struck.

Rather than leave, Ridgway stayed to help in the fishing village.

"The tsunami ruined all their boats so they not only lost the ability to make a living, they lost the ability to bring in food," said Toni Jakovec, a local friend of Ridgway.

Ridgway is volunteering in any way she can, collecting and distributing food to villagers, according to Jakovec.

"That's just her nature. It would never occur to her to just get on a plane and come home," she said.

Ridgway's friends here are collecting funds for her to use on ongoing relief efforts in India.

E-mail Roseanne G. Pereira at [email protected]
Donation news

* The IRS announced to taxpayers who itemize deductions that they charitable donations made during January 2005 for relief of tsunami victims may be claimed on their 2004 tax returns. * California Customs, a Mountain View bike shop, will make a donation to the Red Cross for each item sold from the California Customs brand line. Visit www.calcustom.com or call 254-0963 or (888) 707-CUSTOM for further details. * The Church of Scientology in Mountain View is calling for volunteers to help bring aid to tsunami-devastated areas. Through its volunteer minister program, the church will train volunteers. The program is open to anyone. For more information, contact Maria Senn at 969-5262. * Silicon Graphics (SGI) is instituting a one-time match of up to $25,000 of employee contributions to the following relief agencies: American Red Cross International Response Fund, Mercy Corps, CARE, Oxfam America, Save the Children and UNICEF.


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