Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Disaster aid efforts under way in Athens

Brooks Jarosz

Local and international relief efforts continue after two recent major natural disasters. In Myanmar, thousands of people were killed after a major cyclone ripped through the country of Myanmar, also known as Burma. At least two million survivors are facing starvation. Meanwhile, China's death toll soared above 12,000 after a major earthquake struck. The quake could be felt as far away as Vietnam and Thailand. It measured a magnitude of 7.9 and is believed to be the worst quake China has faced in three decades.

Local student group sends aid

The Indonesian student organization at Ohio University, Permias, is heading up the local disaster relief collection. Following a deadly earthquake in Indonesia in 2006, the group was able to send more than $3,000 in support. Lauri Hlavacs is the chair of the group and is working with the local Athens Red Cross chapter to send relief to those affected. Sandy Shirey, executive director of Athens County Red Cross said,"She [Hlavacs] asked about the possibility of doing a collection, of course, we need to collect funds because everything the Red Cross does is done with donations so this is a perfect opportunity to let the community play a part in helping the people who were so badly hit."

Lauri Hlavacs talks about the benefit of the local Red Cross and how it is assisting with disaster relief

Athens Red Cross does its part

Only a few non-governmental organizations have been allowed to enter Myanmar. One of those groups is the International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC). Sandy Shirey, executive director of Athens County Red Cross said, "The American Red Cross is very active right now internationally and nationally. With our national disasters, the volunteers in the areas where the disasters have struck have called in mutual aid and that is Red Cross organizations in neighboring counties have come in to help, so they're sheltering, feeding, clothing people as we always do. Now, internationally, the American Red Cross is working very hard in Myanmar to provide help for the Myanmar Red Cross which is already on the ground and as I understand it, helped people before the cyclone hit. But, we are sending the basic relief upplies that people need." Shirey also said she is thankful the community has provided support.

Athens Red Cross executive director Sandy Shirey talks of the importance of disaster experts

What YOU should do in a disaster

The Red Cross says there are some basic steps to recover from a natural disaster.

1. Protect yourself and seek medical attention from injuries.
2. Contact family members who may be trying to contact you and let them know where you are.
3. Contact your insurance companies and don't guess at your coverage. Follow the rules on filing claims.
4. Make a list of things needed to recover, focussing first basic needs first.
5. Make a list of support systems such as family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
6. Make a list of financial resources available or on hand.
7. Get estimates on home or appliance repairs.
8. If you have needs you can't meet, come to a Red Cross office or disaster service center.

Local Chinese group plans to help

Jiong Hu is the Vice President of the Chinese Student Scholar Association and said he was shocked at the disaster in China. Hu said "We are planning to have a desk set up, a table for donations for people or maybe have some posters or all kinds of stuff to tell people what's going on there, and try to collect money or help or send wishes to the people there." With this week being International Week at Ohio University, the street fair will have groups like the CSSA trying to raise funds for relief.

Donating to the relief effort

Visit the Athens chapter of the American Red Cross at 100 South May Avenue off East State Street to donate cans, boxes or tax-deductible contributions. Collection cans and boxes have been distributed throughout the Athens area. The Red Cross is also accepting both cash and checks (made out to "American Red Cross" with "Myanmar Disaster Relief" in the memo line).

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