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WEB - NEWS - Tsunami victims
Crook County schools are uniting to collect money for a disaster event that occurred thousands of miles away.
   On Dec. 26, a tsunami struck Southeast Asia, devastating countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and India.
   "I felt like we needed to somehow allow the students to take part in helping out these victims, so they could have some kind of connection with the people in need," explained Sarah Hendrickson, a fifth grade teacher at Crooked River Elementary.
   "I discussed it with other staff members and the fifth grade decided to do a coin drive and raise some money or them," she continued.
   Crooked River Elementary has collected $170 as of last Thursday, and planned on collecting $200. Hendrickson will donate the money to the Red Cross, she said.
   Before the donation drive, Hendrickson's class discussed the science of tsunamis, the amount of people who have died, and how it has devastated the area.
   "We talked about it as much as we can, but for them to truly understand... I think they would have to be there to understand that kind of devastation," she said.
   Coin jars are in both the primary and intermediate offices of Crooked River Elementary and are collected after school daily.
   Cecil Sly Elementary is also collecting funds for the tragedy. The school has a more specific focus, pledging their collected funds to "Room to Read," a nonprofit organization that is rebuilding 20 schools in Sri Lanka communities that were destroyed by the tsunami.
   "I discussed this idea with the students and they responded favorably," Principal Dane Danforth wrote in the school newsletter.
   "It will be our way to help out children impacted by the tsunami and help our students see beyond the local level. School in Sri Lanka was supposed to begin today (Jan. 10), but will not be able to, due to the tsunami destruction," he continued.
   According to the charity organization, it takes a minimum of $5,000 to construct a school.
   "Our goal is to raise half of this, or $2,500, and then the rest will be matched by private donors who work with Room to Read," Danforth wrote.
   The school will be collecting funds until Feb. 11.
   More information on Room to Read can be obtained from the organization's Web site at www.RoomtoRead.org.
   During a 20-minute advisory period at Crook County High School on Jan. 5, students and teachers reached into their pockets for spare change and collected $192.
   "We are outrageously proud of them," said CCHS teacher Linda Pepper.
   Funds collected at the high school went to Northwest Medical Teams.
   Other schools are also gearing up to start their own donation drives.
   Jan Boles, principal of Ochoco Elementary, plans to start collecting donations for tsunami victims in February.
   "We just did the Christmas penny drive and we wanted to give everyone some relief after the holidays," she explained.
   A kindergarten class at Powell Butte Elementary is also planning on collecting money for the victims.
   Nationally, President Bush has pledged $350 million in aid and has deployed troops to help rebuild the countries.
   The death toll as of Monday, according to Associated Press reports, totaled about 162,000 and is expected to continue rising. Some news organizations predict the number to rise to 270,000 people dead.
   In comparison, the combined population of Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson Counties during 2003, according to the Population Research Center at Portland State University, was 170,700.