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World Vision's goal: $50 milion for relief efforts

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

As the death toll rose to an estimated 140,000 people, humanitarian aid organizations –– including World Vision in Federal Way –– continued working over the New Year’s holiday to provide immediate relief, reunite loved ones separated in the chaos and comfort those who lost everything in the South Asia tsunami Dec. 26.

World Vision, a Christian humanitarian aid organization based here, announced New Year’s Eve Day that it plans to raise $50 million for relief efforts. World Vision International president Dean Hirsch left Monday to survey the damage and to direct the organization’s short and long-term responses in the region. In the meantime, the organization was preparing to send at least eight airlifts of food and supplies to the region this week, Hirsch said.

The Commons at Federal Way (formerly SeaTac Mall) has joined with World Vision to serve as a donation center for victims of the tsunami. Donation boxes will be available at guest services in the mall.

World Vision also has partnered with Tully’s Coffee to raise money for tsunami relief efforts. all of the net proceeds from sale of specially-marked tsunami relief coffee packages will be donated to World Vision’s relief effort.

Tully’s and World Vision hope to raise $1 million with the special packages of coffee, which will be available in regular and decaffeinated varieties for the next three months.

President Bush announced on New Years Eve the United States would commit $350 million to help the tsunami-stricken areas. As of Monday, the international community had committed more than $2 billion. The money will be available for ongoing relief efforts, to help with future employment opportunities and to boost the regions’ economies later, officials said.

Relief efforts hit a snag last week as supplies piled up at ports and in warehouses in areas without the infrastructure or vehicles to distribute them. Since then, workers have found ways to get the supplies to where they’re needed.

Where bridges and roads were washed out, helicopters have been airlifting in supplies.

By Monday, 15 Americans were confirmed killed in the tsunami. Officials estimated between 4,000 and 5,000 Americans were still unaccounted for but expected that number to drop as State Department officials check back with families who have heard from loved ones since initially reporting them missing.

World Vision has more than 5,000 workers in the countries affected by the tsunami, many of whom were affected by the disaster themselves. Several workers have opened their own homes, taking in up to 100 displaced men, women and children, officials reported.

One staff member lost 16 members of her extended family, another lost his mother and daughter, and another lost his mother-in-law. Five staff members in one community lost their homes, World Vision reported.

In addition, World Vision officials are concerned that children orphaned or separated from their parents are being kidnapped from hospitals and camps to be used as domestic help or sold into the sex trade.

But there have been some positive developments since the tsunami, according to World Vision. Political animosities have been set aside as groups work together to repair the damage and distribute relief supplies.

Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said aid workers are beginning to see signs of psychological shock in survivors who have lost their entire families, homes and livelihoods. He said the presence of high-level officials could restore hope and help reassure people they haven’t been forgotten.

Aid organizations also are trying to put survivors to work as a way to help them work through the devastation to their communities and their own lives, Natsios said.

“Just the physical evidence of the mess is a reminder every hour of every day that everything is gone,” he said. “And if we can begin to get them moving, working as a community again, it has an effect psychologically, economically and just physically.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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