CAPE | Council for American Private Education

Council for American Private Education

Tsunami Relief

Tsunami map The tsunami in Southern Asia caused unimaginable devastation. Victims included countless children--killed, injured, or separated from their families. Many schools were destroyed or damaged, as were textbooks and instructional supplies.

No doubt, America’s schoolchildren—among the world’s most fortunate—will want to assist their brothers and sisters in need. And teachers will want to instill in students the compassion and love for others that mark a moral person.

This page provides resources to help educators and students participate in the relief effort.

↑ Top of Page

Where to Donate

A List of Nonprofit Agencies working to provide assistance to people affected by the tsunami. The list has been compiled by USAID, the U.S. government agency responsible for economic and humanitarian assistance around the world.

Note: CAPE is not collecting money for the relief effort. Please do not send contributions to CAPE.

↑ Top of Page

School Projects

February 7, 2005--For a wide swath of students across thecountry, the return to school in January was far from business as usual. With people in Southern Asia experiencing unspeakable suffering in the wake of the wall of water that devastated villages and families, the response of many American school communities was not to resume the routine, but to extend a helping hand. Teachers revamped lesson plans to inspire students to assist those in need. Administrators prepared prayer services to implore God’s comfort. Students took up a series of fundraising activities ranging from swim-a-thons and math-a-thons to dress-down days and bake sales. Whether creative or tried and true, all the projects were aimed at a simple and kindhearted purpose: to ease the pain of those who survived the tsunami. The hope was for a wave of healing as swift and powerful as the wave of ruin that preceded and prompted it.

One school’s relief project took place close to the tsunami site itself. Students, teachers, and other volunteers from Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio, traveled all the way to Charity City, India, where they helped an orphanage prepare for children affected by the tsunami. Although the trip had been planned well before the tragedy, the timing placed CHCA students in the front lines helping the orphanage get ready to receive hundreds of children who had lost their homes and families in the floods.

"Seeing all this really wakes you up," said Ashley Reno, a senior at the school. Her comments were reported in The Enquirer by a staff writer who accompanied the group on the trip. "When you see the children on the street, on the way here, my heart just goes out to them," she said. "No one should have to live like that." The writer noted Reno’s eyes were glistening when she said, "I already want to bring all of them home with me."

While not as close to the destruction as the Cincinnati Hills project, other school-based efforts were just as commendable. The Blue Ridge School, a college preparatory school for boys in St. George, Virginia, sponsored several projects to help tsunami victims. Events included a special chapel service and offering, a bake sale, and a fundraising dress-down day on which students and faculty donated funds in exchange for the right to shed the traditional coat and tie for more casual attire. The school sent the American Red Cross a check for $7,000.

Sioux Falls Christian School worked with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) to provide assistance to children affected by the tsunami. The school showed students a short video clip from CRWRC and asked them to "give their age" to help another boy or girl who had lost a family or home.

In Milford, New Jersey, students at the Solomon Schechter Day School raised over $3,000, according to the North Jersey Media Group. Students sold a newspaper they produced about the tsunami, and raised additional funds through bake sales and collections taken after morning prayer services.

Links of Love and Hope

Our Lady of Mercy School in Potomac, Maryland, has a project called "Links of Love and Hope." The Catholic Standard reports that student council members in the school sell slips of paper for $2, which students decorate with a prayer for victims of the tsunami. The prayer papers are then linked together to drape the school as a remembrance of the tragedy. Funds from the project will be forwarded to Catholic Relief Services.

Lower school students at The Moses Brown School, a Friends school in Providence, Rhode Island, made and sold bracelets to raise money. Upper school students will be hosting a performing arts festival, with the price of admission being a donation towards the relief effort. The tsunami will also be the focus of a school-wide meeting for worship this month.

The Rudolf Steiner School, a Waldorf school in New York City, raised over $11,000 for tsunami relief, the bulk coming from donations offered during a concert on January 13. Students and teachers displayed their creative and artistic talents through poetry, music, drama, chorus, and dance. Students in The Park School in Snyder, New York, were planning to follow suit with a fundraising talent show slated for February 15.

Pennies from Heaven

Not all disaster-relief activities involved extensive planning. A number of schools raised significant sums of money simply by having students and teachers deposit coins and bills in five-gallon jars or other containers placed in entrances, hallways, or classrooms. One school called the project "Change the World," another, "Pennies from Heaven."

When Kevin Dunning, executive director of Faith Lutheran School in Las Vegas, Nevada, challenged staff and students to donate $1 a day for seven days for tsunami relief, he never dreamed that the initial goal of $10,000 would be surpassed nearly four times over. As of early February, the school received more than $37,000 from students, teachers, parents, and friends. The money will go to the American Red Cross, the World Relief Fund of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and Bethania Kids, an organization that assists orphaned children in India.

Perhaps the most unusual collection effort is the one being undertaken by Southwestern Christian School in Yuma, AZ. The Yuma Sun reports that children are saving their pennies to collect toothbrushes for children in an orphanage in Myanmar. A parent, John Jackson, is planning to deliver the toothbrushes during a mission trip to Myanmar. "The children in the orphanage do not own a thing," he said. "They have nothing that belongs to them, so we hope this will help them."

UNICEF has developed a school-in-a-box, which provides basic supplies and materials for a class of 40 students, allowing children to receive instruction in emergency situations. The agency says the kit—which includes such items as workbooks, pencils, a wooden teaching clock, counting cubes, laminated arithmetic posters, and even a blackboard—allows teachers to "establish makeshift classrooms almost anywhere." The Hockessin Montessori School in Delaware raised about $4,200 for the school-in-a box program.

Frog Kiss and Penny War

Working off the premise that frog-kissing is an effective motivator, Cape Christian School in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, had classes compete in a penny war, with the losing class having to designate a volunteer student to kiss a frog. The rules were quite elaborate, with each penny counting as one positive point and all other currency counting as negative points according to their penny value (e.g., one dollar equals 100 negative points). The object was to put as many pennies as possible in your own class’s jar and as many bills as possible in the jars of other classes in order to pull down their scores. There were so many coins involved that a bank was recruited to count them. The school of only 138 students donated a grand total of $2,842.10 in tsunami aid to Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian relief agency.

Latching on to the current bracelet craze, students in Oregon Episcopal School created a three-bead bracelet, with each bead carrying a particular message: black for mourning those who died, gold for the help provided survivors, and a clear bead to symbolize hope and cooperation. The project raised several thousand dollars in its first two days, and the hope is for an even higher yield. Enterprising students are providing parishes throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Western Oregon with materials to make their own bracelets.

One of CAPE’s member organizations, the Association of Christian Schools International, reports that a number of its schools in Indonesia endured extensive damage during earthquakes prior to the tsunami. Petra Vocational High School in Nabire, for example, sustained major damage to nine classrooms and several other rooms. The reconstruction cost for each classroom is an estimated $6,500. ACSI is accepting donations to help the damaged schools. Click here for more information about the project.

Various reasons prompted people to participate in what is now one of the largest humanitarian relief missions in history. Rachel Burton, a senior at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, Maryland, was motivated by a sense that humanity is united. She told The Catholic Standard that in religion class she was reminded that when one part of the body hurts, the entire body hurts. "[W]hen someone in another country is hurting, you feel their pain too—and that’s why we all want to keep on helping."

Given the extent of the tsunami’s devastation, it looks like we will all need to keep on helping for a long time to come.

↑ Top of Page

Other Projects

Quarters From Kids is a nationwide, grassroots effort to engage young Americans, and adults who work with them, in a collective response to the tsunami disaster in Asia.

↑ Top of Page

Share Your Projects with Others

Many schools and member organizations are engaged in activities to help tsunami victims. Your projects may be a resource and inspiration to others. Please let us know what you and your community are doing by way of fundraisers, prayer services, assembly programs, lesson plans, and the like. Feel free to include with your description any copies of, or links to, resource materials that may be of help to other educators. We'll post the information on this Web page. If your project has raised a specific amount of money for the relief effort, be sure to let us know how much.

Please send your project descriptions to

↑ Top of Page