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US Family Collects Private Donations for Sri Lanka Victims


Efforts are underway in many communities across the United States to aid victims of the Tsunami in South Asia. VOA's Chris Simkins reports on a Sri Lankan family, devastated by personal tragedy but determined to do what they can to help others who are suffering.

Rizwan Mowlana, like so many Sri Lankans living in the United States, has been affected by the disaster back home. Rizwan lost at least 30 relatives including his aunt and her children who were taking a coastal train ride when the tidal waves crashed onto the shores of Sri Lanka's southern coast.

Rizwan spoke of his lost relatives in disaster. "All of them have been buried in mass graves because there are no other options or alternatives. Out of the 19 people who were swept away, one family who was on the beach -- I just got news a few hours ago -- that just a baby, a two-year-old baby was the only survivor. "

While Rizwan anxiously waits for news about the fate of other family members, he is doing what he can to help the victims of the tsunami. He formed a non-profit charity organization called Asia Relief.

Operating out of his home in a Washington D.C. suburb, Rizwan's family and friends are collecting food, clothing, toys and other supplies to send to Sri Lanka and neighboring countries.

He spoke of why he is so involved. "Doing this I think it takes my focus away from my sadness, but at the same time I am able to do something constructive for the people of Sri Lanka. We need a lot of help in terms of medical aid, food, clothing, water and a lot of financial support is needed so they can set up homes and shelter for these people."

Rizwan's brother-in-law, Azwan Khalid, is helping collect items to ship from the United States to Sri Lanka. He says people in the Washington, D.C. area have been generous in their donations.

Azwan says it's crucial these and other relief supplies get to Sri Lanka as soon as possible. "I think getting relief supplies such as clean drinking water and good medical supplies over there, and people to be treated for diseases is very important and essential at this time.”

Azwan continued, “I know a lot of Sri Lankan doctors here in the U.S. right now who will be leaving for Sri Lanka. Even my brother over there, who is working in the city of Colombo as a doctor, has left his normal practice and he has gone to the eastern seaboard to help those people who are really badly affected."

Rizwan says the tragedy in Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia has emotionally touched people here in the United States. He hopes the outpouring of support he has seen in his community will save lives and provide much-needed relief for thousands of tsunami victims coping with the disaster.