More than three billion dollars has been pledged from around the world for tsunami victims. The U.S. government has pledged 350 million dollars and more than 200 million dollars from America has been raised by private donations.
The American desire to help and the unprecedented aid response for tsunami victims has resulted in creative fundraising efforts across the country. In the southern state of Tennessee, a local judge is giving amnesty to traffic violators if they donate 100 dollars to relief efforts.
The program has so far raised $40,000 from motorists such as Miranda Cagle. "The judge has kind of given us the opportunity to take a small mistake and turn it around and make it positive for other people," said the traffic offender.
In Florida, one popular restaurant will donate the revenues earned every Monday this month to tsunami relief. A native of Thailand, restaurant owner Tapanee Damrongwatanasuk lost several relatives in the tsunami. "I need to go there to help them build back. I just can't imagine, you know, how much they're suffering."
Catholic Relief Services, the official international relief agency of the U.S. Catholic community, has committed 25 million dollars for relief and rehabilitation for tsunami victims. At one point, Internet donations to the agency reached 100 thousand dollars an hour.
Chandreyee Banerjee, the CRS tsunami emergency coordinator, said, "The generosity and the support of people in the United States has been amazing. There are calls every day from people who want to volunteer their support to people overseas. There is a huge amount of resources coming from people who want to support the tsunami overseas."
Ms. Banerjee says CRS, like many other agencies, had a slow start in Indonesia, the country hit hardest by the tsunami, due to the remoteness of the islands. But she said, CRS will hand out as many household kits as they can assemble to victims in all affected countries. "A household kit costs $22 per household. And it will have kitchen utensils, blankets or clothing for people, sanitation items."
The American Red Cross continues to be the top recipient for tsunami relief donations. Pledges are near 100 million dollars with most of the money coming from individual donators such as a nine-year-old boy from Texas who has raised $3,000 by selling lemonade -- at 50 cents a glass.
American donations have also included supplies such as food, water and medicine. And although some American-based relief agencies say they now have enough funds to help with the immediate tsunami relief efforts, they worry the outpouring of support may slow down through the lengthy recovery and rebuilding period.