01/11/05 — Children in Wayne County react to those affected by tsunami disaster

View Archive

Children in Wayne County react to those affected by tsunami disaster

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 11, 2005 2:00 PM

The ripple effects of the tsunami tragedy have struck children in Wayne County.

"Even though it's halfway around the world, it does affect our kids here," said Kristy Fair, public relations officer with Wayne County public schools.

Pupils were at home when the tragedy struck on the day after Christmas, many enjoying a nearly three week holiday break. They had plenty of time to be inundated with media reports of the devastation that swept through South Asia and East Africa.

The tsunami has killed more than 150,000 people. It has resulted in relief efforts and an outpouring of support from around the world.

"Students in Wayne County public schools routinely reach out to help those in our community, our state and our nations," Ms. Fair said. "Now they are reaching out halfway around the world to help victims of the tsunami."

She said since classes resumed last week, she has heard from several schools where teachers are talking with students about the tragedy. They are also organizing ways to respond on an individual basis.

"Our students and teachers, many of whom have survived hurricanes in eastern North Carolina, recognize the need to help others," she said.

Ms. Fair said some schools are already taking action to get involved in relief efforts.

"Rosewood Middle School sent home letters giving parents information on how to give to the American Red Cross in support of relief efforts," she said. "Carver Heights Elementary School is collecting money for the Red Cross, and the Key Club at Eastern Wayne High School has pledged to get involved in the effort as well."

Dottie Hobbs, principal at Rosewood High School, said the student council is coordinating a drive to collect money that will be sent to relief organizations for the tsunami victims.

At Rosewood Elementary School, first graders invited the entire school to join them in bringing in 100 pennies on Wednesday, Jan. 19, the 100th day of school. The money will be donated to Red Cross for the relief fund.

Larry Dean, principal at Greenwood Middle School, said many teachers at his school are talking with students about the effect of the news. Students see updates every morning on the Channel One news broadcasts and many discuss it afterwards.

Dean said the school's student government is also looking at ways to raise money to support the American Red Cross in honoring victims. He said students met with him on Friday and plan a rather unique idea.

"The challenge is going to be collecting a penny for every victim who's lost his life," he said. "It will be donated to the American Red Cross in honor of those victims."

That would be 150,000 cents, or $1,500.

Jane Mull, an eighth grade language arts and social studies teacher at Greenwood, said she has been talking about it in her classes. She said one of her weekly assignments is to write on a pertinent story students have seen during the week on Channel One.

"Many of them chose that as their story to write about and comment on last week," she said. "I think they want to find a way to help.

"They felt helpless. It was mainly a compassion thing."

As a rule, it is a topic most of the students are familiar with, although Ms. Mull said she was surprised to encounter one student who returned from the holidays and did not know what his classmates were talking about.

She said she also learned that a student in one of her classes, who is half Thai, had a personal connection to the tragedy.

"She shared with me that her aunt and uncle and cousin are OK but lost their home," she said. "They will be coming here later this month to live with them temporarily because they don't have any money to rebuild."

Chuck Waller, executive director of the Wayne County Red Cross, said in addition to inquiries from several schools seeking ways to help, he has received calls from individuals and groups of children with ideas of their own.

One child, he said, sold candy bars and her mother offered to match the youth's donation.

"We also had a couple groups of little girls come in," he said. "Some baked cookies and sold them door to door; others went door to door collecting money."

The only thing the Red Cross can accept is monetary donations, Waller said, due to the logistics of getting the items to other countries. That doesn't appear to be slowing down those who really want to do something, he said.

"The outpouring, in typical Wayne County fashion, has been very benevolent and caring," he said. "Some of them are just taking it and running with it."