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US Immigrant Communities Remember Tsunami Victims, Donate to Relief Effort

Around the United States, there have been memorial services and fundraising events for the tsunami victims in south and Southeast Asia. Immigrant communities on the West Coast have been active in providing support for the stricken region.

U.S. census figures say there are about 140,000 people from the affected countries in southern California. Consular officials put the figures much higher.

The Thai consul general for Los Angeles, Isinthorn Sornvai, believes there are 150,000 people from Thailand alone in Southern California, and with immigrants from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India added, the numbers may range into the hundreds of thousands.

He says since late December, the Thai consulate has coordinated assistance efforts for Thailand through a local association of Thai immigrants, which organized a memorial and fundraiser Sunday at a Thai Buddhist temple called Wat Thai.

"The Thai Association of Southern California didn't do [this] only for today, but during the past 10 days,” he said. “They have done a lot of things already and now they can mobilize [donations] both in cash and in kind. And they plan to bring some donations to Thailand."

Wantana Prinyotarn, a Los Angeles business owner, came with her son to donate funds collected from customers.

"I feel so bad,” she said. “So I like to help, and we have a restaurant. Last week we bring some [money], but this week we bring more."

Last week, she brought $200 in contributions. This week, she donated $450.

At Northridge Hospital in suburban Los Angeles, colleagues of a Sri Lankan-born doctor who lost his wife and daughter in the tsunami are planning a relief effort.

Another Sri Lankan doctor from southern California, named Rushdi Cader, was on a plane heading for Sri Lanka December 27, the day after the tsunami. A volunteer for a relief agency called International Medical Corps, Dr. Cader has been joined by a number of fellow U.S. physicians, including four like him who were born in Sri Lanka.

Stephen Tomlin of International Medical Corps says the group was already established in Indonesia, and was able to send medical workers quickly to devastated Aceh province.

"We were able to mobilize our staff in Indonesia, and in Sumatra, and move them up into Aceh. We have quite a sizable relief initiative ongoing there," he said.

The West Coast consulates of India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka are also collecting funds for tsunami victims. Thai consul general Sornvai says the needs vary from country to country, with medical and building supplies high on the list in Thailand.

"Of course, we talk to our people and even our American friends, and all the people who would like to donate, we told them that we need things that match the needs of our people in Thailand, especially the villagers along the coastline in southern Thailand,” he explained. “Their houses are gone, they have to rebuild their houses, and our government in Thailand is trying hard to rebuild the homes for our victims."

U.S. business corporations have donated more than $180 million for the tsunami relief effort, and private individuals have given hundreds of millions more.

As ethnic communities come together to remember those who have died, they are contributing what they can to help the survivors.