A YSU professor's hometown was devastated by the tsunami.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University is asking each of its faculty, staff and students to contribute at least $1 to its effort to raise money for children affected by the tsunami disaster that killed thousands in Asia.
The university kicked off its monthlong campaign Monday to raise $15,000 -- about $1 for each of its faculty, staff and students. The money will go to the United Nations children's tsunami relief program. About 1.5 million children were affected by the Dec. 26 disaster.
For Gunapala Edirisooriya, a YSU associate professor of education, the campaign is personal.
Edirisooriya was born in Rekawa, a small village in Sri Lanka that was completely devastated by the tsunami. His brother, Karunasena, and his brother's wife and child, as well as many of his friends, lived in the village until the tsunami hit.
Edirisooriya says 65 families, most of them poor farmers and fishermen, lived in Rekawa and lost everything in the tsunami.
"This tidal wave has not left a single home intact, and the surviving residents in this village now live in relief camps," said Edirisooriya, who moved to the United States from Sri Lanka 22 years ago. "No matter how small or large, every contribution will strengthen our effort to help rebuild these lives."
Death toll unclear
The death toll from the tsunami is unclear because so many people remain missing. But at least 166,000 are dead, and some estimates put the figure at more than 275,000. The hardest hit of the 11 nations as far as the death toll and damage was Indonesia with Sri Lanka second.
Nations have pledged almost $1 billion toward the relief effort.
This unfortunate event was an opportunity for YSU to show how much it cares, said David C. Sweet, the university's president.
"The Youngstown State University community tries to help those in need, whether we are assisting our international neighbors struggling to survive in the nations devastated by the Dec. 26 tsunami or our next-door neighbors by contributing to the United Way campaign," he said.
Those wanting to contribute to the fund can visit any Home Savings and Loan branch, or mail checks to Home Savings and Loan, or YSU Kilcawley Center, 1 University Plaza, YSU, Youngstown, Ohio 44555. Checks should be made payable to the YSU Tsunami Relief Fund.
Those who donate to the effort will receive tsunami relief stickers.
David Lodge, the bank's president, and his family were on vacation in Phuket, Thailand, when the tsunami hit.
YSU officials chose Valentine's Day to kick off the campaign because it's a day to celebrate love and compassion.
"What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day then to show the ultimate gift of love: Helping those in need," said Angela Mavrikis, YSU Student Government president.
The university established a Web site at www.ysu.edu/tsunami/ devoted to the campaign.