During lunch Wednesday, 8-year-old Prashan Rajaratnam joined two of his classmates at a table in front of the Quarles Elementary School cafeteria and asked students to donate money to a tsunami relief fund.
It was part of an ongoing fund-raiser for Prashanís third-grade class.
Quarles teacher Anne Carpenter said when her students came back from Christmas break, they were all aware of the devastating effects of the tsunami. So the class decided to do their part and raise money to help out people affected by the disaster.
Since Jan. 5, theyíve raised $400.
Prashan was born in Sri Lanka, and some of his extended family still lives there. He sometimes visits Sri Lanka during the winter.
He said his family is doing fine, but his motherís aunt was washed away by the tsunami.
Prashan said he was surprised when his class decided to do a fund-raiser, but heís happy to be helping out.
"My parents said Iím doing a good thing," he said shyly.
Each student in his class gets a chance to helm the cafeteria table.
In front of the table are signs scribbled with pink and yellow crayons. They bear slogans like, "Be a happy helper and donate money," "Be a good citizen," and "Donate."
A plastic container for all collected money sits nearby.
Behind the table, a bulletin board is plastered with colored-paper cutouts of boy and girl shapes, with the names of those who have donated written on them.
Newspaper clippings about the tsunami and a picture of Prashanís uncle and father, who were interviewed for a newspaper story, are also pinned to the board.
"Itís kind of an educational project for the school," Carpenter said.
During lunch on Wednesday, Prashan and fellow 8-year-olds Catherine Stone and Hanna Croan sat vigilantly at the table, their legs swinging.
"We like helping out," Hanna said.
"We think itíd be nice for the people," Catherine added.
Brandon Williamson, 8, donated $20 to the fund. Heís proud of that.
"I wanted to help the people in Sri Lanka so they can recover from what happened," he said.
Meanwhile, students at Handley High School donated money to the tsunami cause as well.
Larry Gale, Student Government Association co-sponsor at Handley, said students raised money during winter break for the Winchester Salvation Army. When they returned to school earlier this month, they decided to donate additional money to tsunami victims.
Officers for the schoolís Class of 2006 proposed giving $1,000, and they split the donation between a tsunami orphanage fund at Bethel Lutheran Church and the American Red Crossís Tsunami Response Plan, Gale said.
The students raised the money from concession-stand sales at home football games. The money is usually used to pay for the Senior Prom.
At Quarles Elementary, the class fund-raiser will end on Friday. Carpenter said they hope to collect $500, which will be donated to the Red Cross.
"You get to help people, and when you do, it makes your heart feel better," said 9-year-old Christelle Melome.
The Winchester Star, Winchester, Virginia
Posted January 14, 2005