According to Brunner, many current Buffalo State graduate students were in the affected areas when the tsunamis hit. She has been in telephone and e-mail contact with some students and program coordinators, but she is still waiting to hear from many more. Schools were closed for the holidays, and many students and their families were at the beaches along the Indian Ocean when the tragedy occurred. Most schools in the region are scheduled to resume operation on January 10. Brunner said that the schools are planning to open, which will allow them to assess the number of teachers, students, and parents of students who have been killed or are missing.
While much of the information she has received is incomplete, Brunner knows that the school facilities are intact, including the school in Sri Lanka. The following schools are still assessing the situations of their staff, students, and family members: the International School of Bangkok, Thailand; the Singapore American School, Singapore; Taipei American School, Taiwan; the International School of Kuala Lumpur; the International School of Yangon, Myanmar (Burma); and two cohorts in Indonesia.
Brunner has received several firsthand accounts of the tsunamis and their aftermath. Buffalo State graduate students Jen and Tim Munnerlyn from Shanghai American School, China, and their daughter were vacationing in Phuket when the tsunami hit. Fortunately they were in a hotel located on a slight hill, which prevented water from reaching their hotel room.
Buffalo State graduate student Petro Berkhout, a middle school teacher at the International School of Bangkok, his wife, Karin, and their 6-year-old twins, Job and Maria, were vacationing on the beach in the Khao Lak area of Thailand when the tsunami hit. Petro and Karin sustained serious injuries and were hospitalized in Phuket. Other Buffalo State students and staff of the school found the couple at the hospital and, because of the extent of their injuries, arranged to have the couple flown to a hospital in Bangkok. The couple’s children are still missing.
Numerous Buffalo State graduate students continue to search the area for the Berkhout children, visiting hospitals in southern Thailand, the Khao Lak disaster site, and government offices. These students are also providing much-needed help in the relief effort.
The most pressing needs for disaster victims are water, food, shelter, and medical supplies. Our contacts in the region encourage people who want to help to make a donation through the International Red Cross and the Save the Children Fund. Both organizations have long-standing programs in these areas, and both are reportedly on-site and providing assistance to survivors.
American Red Cross
International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in South Asia have been helping relief efforts. National Headquarters, 2025 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20006. (800) HELP NOW or (800) 257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013; www.redcross.org.
Save the Children
Asian Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Fund, 54 Wilton Road, Westport, CT 06880; (800) 728-3843; www.savethechildren.org.