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ECIW Student Loses Family in Tsunami Disaster

The tsunami has hit closer to Mills than many would realize. One student lost almost all of her family when the tsunami struck southeast Asia nearly two months ago.

Originally from Sri Lanka, Renuka, whose name has been changed due to threats against her family, is a student at the English Center for International Women at Mills. She lost a total of 19 family members as a result of the tsunami.

“They were on a train on the way to my cousin’s wedding, and in Sri Lanka, we all go together,” said Renuka.

Renuka now has just one surviving aunt and her mother. Her aunt and uncle were both teachers and had limited funds. They hand-made the bricks to build their house and after the tsunami their house was completely destroyed, but they survived.

Renuka’s brother-in-law, his wife and their four children traveled to south Sri Lanka on vacation. Renuka said they are still missing.

“At first, I was so upset, I was going to the temple everyday to pray for my family. But now I am a full-time student, so I have less time to think about it.”

Renuka is here to improve her English and hopes to eventually help the children in Sri Lanka.

In an effort to help with funds for Renuka and her community in Sri Lanka, ECIW has set up a collection box in their student lounge.

“We thought we could help by putting up a collection box in our center so she could take it and send it to those who are in need,” said Lynne Wilkins, associate director of ECIW.

Renuka is sending the dona-tions to her mother, who will be able to then distribute the money on a more personal level. In Renuka’s mother’s community there is a movement to protect and sanctify the local cemetery from those who are looking to build their new homes on that land, but they need money to build a wall around the graveyard. Renuka has also had requests for sleeping mats, cooking pots, blankets, sheets, and asbestos sheets for roofing.

The effect of the tsunami has worn both emotionally and economically on Smith, her husband and their daughter.

“People there expect us to send more money because we are here in the United States,” she said.

After the tsunami, the world responded with extensive media coverage and interest in the victims and survivors of the disaster. Numerous countries pledged millions of dollars and many celebrities hosted television donation drives.

“I think it’s good because it’s not going to one area, but it’s being spread to all the areas affected,” she said.

Smith is choosing to send her funds to her community and to the people she knows. She is also telling her mother to set up a bank account for the children in her community to help with their education.