Event gives thanks to tsunami donors

Riham Feshir

The American Refugee Committee gave a boatload of thanks and appreciation Thursday to more than 600 tsunami relief donors at the Ted Mann Concert Hall.

The event’s focus was to thank those who contributed to tsunami relief efforts and to show them how their money is being used, said Karen Frederickson, vice president of the committee.

Children from Blessed Trinity Catholic School in Richfield, Minn., began the event with a song that implored listeners to “lend a helping hand to everyone you can.”

The song served to segue into Hugh Parmer’s, the committee president, discussion of donors’ willingness to help.

“I can’t imagine a better opening than that song; it’s perfect for what I want to talk about. I see many different people in the audience: students, teachers, moms, dads, business people, religious leaders, community leaders and more. But what you all have in common is that six months ago, you came together to lend a helping hand,” Parmer said.

With the help of donations, committee staff members visited two villages in southern Thailand’s Suksamran region, where committee volunteers used $30,000 to install water systems to provide clean water to hundreds of people.

Parmer also said donors from all over Minnesota joined the committee’s team to help with the Fishing Boat Project.

Gary Dahl, University graduate and founder of the Fishing Boat Project, said his goal was to rebuild people’s livelihoods by replacing fishing boats, and to encourage them to work again and support their families.

“Villages have literally been swept away in the tsunami,” said Dahl, who is also the committee’s Thailand country director. “I made a sacred promise to myself that I was going to help.”

In addition to the boat project, Steven Miles, University professor of medicine and committee board member, traveled with a team of volunteers to northwestern Indonesia in January and February to provide medical assistance.

Miles said funds were used to build clinics as well as to restore and reopen destroyed ones.

Anne Bridges, who was a committee representative in Sri Lanka, said committee representatives provided sewing material and market bicycles to tsunami survivors to help victims get back to work and back on their feet.

Renee Nelson, a donor who traveled to Thailand approximately four years ago, said the people she met there were very friendly.

“I grew up in a fishing boat with my dad before I could walk, so I realize the importance of being able to have your boat and take care of a family. I decided to put part of my money to good use,” she said.

Organizations such as the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the Islamic Center of Minnesota were also invited to the event.

“This is about remembrance. It wasn’t too long ago and people have already forgotten,” said Sumbal Mahmud, a board member of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the Islamic Center of Minnesota.