Locals fund, assist with tsunami relief effort

From left Connor Konzelman, 7,  holds up the cashier’s check, Olive Konzelman, 5, holds up a cardboard sign and Scarlett Konzelman, 9, holds the glass jar that display what they used to collect money and what they intend to donate.  - Stephen Mercer
From left Connor Konzelman, 7, holds up the cashier’s check, Olive Konzelman, 5, holds up a cardboard sign and Scarlett Konzelman, 9, holds the glass jar that display what they used to collect money and what they intend to donate.
— image credit: Stephen Mercer

It may only buy a few medical supplies or some clothes. But Scarlett Konzelman, 9, of Freeland came to the decision last week that helping the victims of the tsunami that struck Asia on Dec. 26. made it worthwhile to stand out in the cold through the New Year’s weekend with her brother and sister to raise money.

The $260 they raised will soon be earmarked to help the millions affected by the tsunami, which was triggered by a large earthquake on Dec. 26. The tsunami struck 11 Asian countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. About 140,000 people were confirmed dead in the disaster Tuesday.

It is the images of the victims of the tsunami that spurred Konzelman, a South Whidbey Intermediate School student, to action.

“After I saw all the pictures, I really felt sorry for them and I wanted to help them,” she said.

So Konzelman, along with her brother Connor Konzelman, 7, and sister Olive Konzelman, 5, made “Whidbey Islanders can you help?” signs from cardboard and printed “feed homeless” on a piece of paper covering a glass jar on Dec. 30 in preparation. On Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, they spent several hours in front of Payless Foods, The Star Store and Ken’s Corner Red Apple to raise the money.

The Knozelman children and their mother Gina then deposited the money Monday, picked up a cashier’s check and plan to send the money to the American Red Cross, said their father, Chris Konzelman.

Gina said both she and Chris were proud of Scarlett taking on such a responsibility at her age. She said many of those who donated money also said they appreciated the effort of raising money.

And the donations do not end there. Freeland’s Alice Kois said her daughter, Lisa, a nine-year Sri Lankan resident, has been working to bring needed assistance to the victims in that country with more than $3,500 donated by Whidbey Island residents. As of Dec. 31, $2,735 has been donated to the Island County chapter of the American Red Cross, as well.

But Langley resident Dan Prewitt, a long-time international relief worker, said that before sending money to any relief organization, people should do some research. Money should go to agencies with a proven track record, such as CARE and the Red Cross, he said.

Other tips are going on the Internet to research what an organizations motivation is, such as religious or provide medical supplies, to support organizations which have a prior presence or experience in the countries effected by the tsunami. Many new organizations are well meaning, Prewitt said, but without local contacts they often spend a lot of money to bring doctors and nurses along who may not speak the language and establish workable relationships with the government, the local communities and effectively distributing supplies.

In addition, people should always send money to agencies, Prewitt said. Food and supply donations may take months to get to the countries or are inappropriate for the country, while money can buy what is needed.

“Money can go through borders very easily,” he said.

Kois, who returned to Sri Lanka in the past few weeks, recently spent time on South Whidbey several weeks ago to edit a documentary movie on the Asian country. Being back in Sri Lanka gives her several advantages when spending donations. Alice Kois said because Lisa is in the country, she can draw money donated directly from an ATM. Her time in the country, including the costal area, also gives her first-hand knowledge of the problems.

“She knows the needs,” Alice Kois said.

Those needs include rehydration supplies, disinfectant, plastic sheeting and digging tools.

Info Box)

Some relief agencies to visit on-line or call.


88 Hamilton Ave.

Stamford, CT 06902


American Friends Service Committee

1501 Cherry St.

Philadelphia, PA


American Red Cross

P.O. Box 37243

Washington, DC 20013



1-800-521-CARE (2273)

Oxfam America Asian Earthquake Fund

PO Box 1211

Albert Lea, MN 56007-1211


UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)

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