Angelina Torchia, front, enjoys reading a
copy of "My Ho Ho Horrible Christmas" as she and Paloma
McKinley, center, look for books at a book sale held to raise
money for tsunami relief. The sale was organized by the
fourth-grade class at South Hill Elementary School in Ithaca.
Teacher Eric Miller and resource room teacher Marcie Kidd,
right, look through the selection of donated books for sale.
The event raised $666.85 through the sale of 1,064 donated
Lucas DeVries, a third-grade student at South
Hill Elementary, works with one of his teachers, Allison
Deutsch Andersen, to add up the cost of a customer's purchases
at the book sale.
CU grad student conducts relief in
By ANNE JU
ITHACA -- A Cornell University graduate student from
Indonesia who lost several family members in the tsunamis has
received an outpouring of financial support from local
enclaves, including schools.
The fund-raising on behalf of Saiful Mahdi, who is
currently in Indonesia doing relief work, has raised more than
$68,000. Details are available on a Web site chronicling
Mahdi's efforts, http://www.acehrelief.org/
Mahdi is from the Aceh province of Indonesia -- just 90 miles
from the epicenter of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck
on Dec. 26.
Mazalan Kamis, a postdoctoral student at Cornell and friend
of Mahdi, started collecting donations on behalf of Mahdi
shortly after Mahdi heard the grim news about his family.
"We still welcome fund-raising on our behalf," Kamis said.
"We are small but effective. It goes direct to the people."
Along with many relief supplies, the money has also gone to
reopening a school that Mahdi himself helped establish several
years ago, according to Kamis.
The support around Mahdi has especially moved students and
staff at Northeast Elementary School, where Mahdi's children
This month, two Northeast teachers, Kelly Craft and Kari
Krako, plan to visit the Aceh province to bring supplies to
Mahdi, according to principal Jeff Tomasik.
"We hope to set up some kind of cultural exchange between
Northeast and this school," Tomasik said.
In a Jan. 29 e-mail to The Ithaca Journal, Mahdi reported
that "relief works are progressing," and the spread of disease
seems to be under control in his area.
"There were some reports on scattered incidence of tetanus
and diarrhea, but not cholera," he wrote. "Thanks to enough
bottled water supplied by many parties."
Mahdi also said there is a significant need to boost local
participation and initiatives, and said he is working on
consolidating grassroots relief efforts.
As for news of Mahdi's family, he spent his first four days
after arriving in Aceh on Jan. 6 on a "personal quest"
searching for lost loved ones. But he's since reduced that
quest and is doing more for the community, he wrote.
"So far, I have no other findings about my sister and her
family, my youngest brother, and my grandma and cousins,"
Mahdi wrote. All evidence he's found of his sister is an ID
card from her wallet, he wrote.
ITHACA -- About $4 billion has been donated worldwide in disaster
relief for as many as 150,000 South Asian tsunami victims, and area
school districts have done their part.
Countless students in Tompkins County and surrounding school
districts collected change, recycled cans, sold concert tickets and
baked brownies to the tune of thousands of dollars of relief money
for tsunami victims since the killer waves hit the day after
"I am so impressed that it was done in such a short time," said
Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services
Deputy Superintendent Doug Chappell, of the money raised through
that school. "It got such a wonderful community response."
Through various efforts including a Students for Tsunami Relief
concert, the BOCES students alone raised about $14,000. They'll be
sending the money to four separate relief organizations, according
Many students, particularly the older ones, put their individual
talents to use.
At the BOCES cosmetology school, students held a fund-raising
clinic on two evenings in January, organized by teachers Carol McCoy
and Andrea Perkins. Services such as pedicures and facials went for
$12, while haircuts and manicures went for $5.
The students were busy attending to about 60 customers, said
Whitney Nash, 17.
After raising $479 that night, the students wanted to send an
even $500 to the BOCES account for tsunami relief.
"So they looked in their pockets and purses for change and came
up with the additional $21," McCoy said.
Amber Wood, 19, said she was glad to chip in her haircutting and
"Financially, I couldn't really help them out, so I thought I
could help in some way by doing the clinic," she said.
Ithaca High School senior Hannah Amsili decided to make red
bracelets out of string to sell for donations to the Red Cross,
along the theme of the popular "LIVESTRONG" Lance Armstrong
bracelets. She made $416.27.
"It was a huge success," she said.
Some teachers also spearheaded efforts in their classrooms. South
Hill Elementary School teachers Allison Deutsch Andersen and Eric
Miller helped their third-graders set up a used book drive, which
In other schoolwide efforts, penny and change drives were common,
and doubled as an opportunity to practice counting change for
The 900-student Candor Central School District raised exactly
$2,321.41 in loose change -- mostly pennies --in a two-week drive
that ended last Friday, said librarian Debbie Collier, who organized
"It was gargantuan," Collier said. "The kids figured out that it
was about half a ton of pennies." She also said some of the kids
gave up their tooth fairy money, or their snack milk money for the
"I think this was really significant because it came from the
kids, caring about somebody, and doing something about it," Collier
The zeal caught on to others who even tried things like dying
their hair pink -- for a change.
Lansing Middle School principal John Gizzi was the lucky one,
according to teacher and student council advisor Maureen Trowbridge.
Challenging the students to get 75 percent of the student body to
participate in a "hat day" in which kids wore hats to school for a
$1, Gizzi promised to do the colorful deed.
When the students delivered, Gizzi did the same.
"He came in Tuesday and did a two-month dye kind of thing,"