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05/10/05 04:00AM
Total Collected:

People of New Orleans Channels Tsunami Fund Through ARF
December 6, 2005

It is the fruit of networking. Realizing that small initiatives need to be strategic and focused, ARF utilizes a vast network in and outside Aceh to fundraise and deliver its programs. Reading Society Foundation (www.acehkids.org) and 1001-Books (www.1001buku.org) are among the two very active partners of ARF in Indonesia.

On the other corner of the world, well, at least the other corner of the US, Asian Pacific American Society (APAS - www.apasneworleans.com) of New Orleans, with the help of United Way and other agencies have raised over $440,000 tsunami donation in New Orleans greater area by April 2005. APAS is a unique and strong community organization. It is a real melting pot of communities from Asia and the Pacific regions--some already naturalized, some others are students or professionals with temporary residency status—in a famous city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

APAS represented communities of 16 countries, alphabetically: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Srilanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. In its statement of purpose, it states: “APAS seeks to bring out the maximum potential of all people in the Asian American community. Ultimately, APAS hopes to build a better world for all races.”

It’s unity in diversity is well pictured by its board of officers: The chair is Rajender K. Pannu, a successful business women from Malaysia-India with vice chairs from The Philippines and Taiwan, a secretary from Laos and a treasurer from Indonesia. The treasurer, Bobby Aboesono, was trying to help find organization working in Aceh so APAS can collaborate with.

When Bobby contacted our friends from 1001-Books, who are working closely with us, they mentioned ARF as one of the potential candidates for funding provision. Afterwards, Bobby and Raj from APAS contacted ARF in Ithaca. Some phone calls and email exchanges, including a teleconference, preceded a visit of APAS chairwoman to Aceh 10-11 June 2005. (see picture). Mrs. Raj Pannu visited the village ARF adopted for its programs, saw some on-going projects, met with the villagers and discussed what they need directly on spot. A two days visit strengthened both organizations commitment to work together to help the survivors in Aceh (The APAS chairwoman then visited Thailand and Sri Lanka as well to meet with local organizations in the countries).

Convinced with the programs and projects we are and will be working in Aceh, APAS invited ARF, and several other organizations from tsunami affected countries, to submit a grant proposal. Dr. Mazalan Kamis, ARF’s President, had himself to work late nights to prepare a proposal from ARF to APAS and met the deadline of June 30, 2005. APAS said that they will have a board meeting after 4 July to decide whether they were to support ARF programs or not.

In August, we heard from APAS that they might support parts of our proposal. It was a great news echoed to the villagers in Punge Jurong. The villagers were so happy to know that they might then started to think about restarting of the small businesses, something they could not do without seed money APAS was willing to support.
Unfortunately, as we all know, Katrina hurricane struck New Orleans in October. Raj and Bobby themselves were affected and had to flee New Orleans. Raj lost four out of six outlet store she and her family has. Bobby lost his job and now works with new company in Florida.

Some villagers of Punge Jurong followed about Katrina and asked about Raj wellbeing. They fully understood that the funding APAS had promised might not come soon or even at all. They told Saiful that above all, they wished Raj and people of New Orleans safe first. ARF then decided to go ahead with whatever funding it had to start the revolving credit programs so the villagers can (re)start their livelihood.

Amazingly, however, APAS and people of New Orleans, insisted that tsunami donations should go to what it was initially set for: to help tsunami victims. They would not use the funding for Katrina relief efforts. APAS invited Mazalan and Saiful to come to New Orleans on Dec 3-5, 2005. In front of Indonesia and other communities, with almost all APAS officers present Raj announced that APAS will support ARF works with up to $118,000. The first check of $40,000 was handed directly to ARF by Raj (see picture). The remaining commitment will be disbursed based of progress and report ARF will provide in the future.

10 June: Villagers met Mrs Raj Pannu APAS’ President of New Orleans, Lousiana in Punge Jurong, Banda Aceh

Dec 4, 2005: One of affected neighborhood in New Orleans still to recover from Katrina destruction.

Dec 4, 2005: Mrs. Raj Pannu, Chair of APAS and Dr. Mazalan Kamis, President of ARF in front of a school bus made shelter. The school bus was used by cleaning-up and construction workers in New Orleans. Mrs. Pannu generously let these workers used her store parking lot for them to camp out.

Dec 4, 2005: New Orleans downtown is getting back! The famous French Corner is ready for its nights life again.

Dec 4, 2005: Mrs. Raj Pannu, witnessed by APAS board officers handed a check of $40,000 to Dr. Kamis and Saiful, in New Orleans.