Thursday, January 06, 2005

Tsunami Aid Locally

The last two days have been a whirlwind for me and I'm really excited about a local effort to help the survivors of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka. It all started as an idea a guy named Bjorn Nabozny had and steamrolled into what it is and will become. Bjorn works for Big Sky Brewing here in Missoula, a local brewery that has met with some success in the past two years. One of their part-time employees is a paramedic and firefighter and Bjorn had an idea to send him to Sri Lanka to help the American Red Cross there...he thought it would be worthwhile for Big Sky to pay his expenses to get there and called our office to see if Dr. Guth would be interested in donating some medical supplies...I happened to get the call by happenstance and thought it sounded like a good idea. I sent an email out to about 50 people, including 15 doctors or so and asked them to consider donating supplies, water purification tablets and medicine. I was hoping to get a few items. Within 24 hours I had so many donations that it took two loads in my car to get them to the drop location. And it wasn't just that, the word spread like lightning all over Missoula; within 48 hours of announcing they were sponsoring a volunteer, one volunteer had turned into 8 and the operation became full-time. Big Sky stopped production yesterday so all employees could help sort, pack and divide supplies...4 families in Sri Lanka volunteered to help transport and house the volunteers, the Red Cross arranged for the volunteers to be met at the airport and to get expedited through customs and a village was identified as the base site for aid efforts.
While we can't forget all those in Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia and here at home who are needy and in much need of aid, there is no denying how this disaster has rallied the hearts of everyone I've come into contact with...this local effort has really struck a chord with people who seem to be excited about a local connection. A local web development firm is putting together a website to help and the brother of one of the volunteers is creating a blog to track the efforts.
When I dropped the supplies I gathered off at the brewery, they were already loading a cargo van full to take over to Spokane (3 hours west) where they will be loaded onto a plane tomorrow morning for Sri Lanka.
Now, because of the response, Big sky is working on setting up an ongoing supply chain to Sri Lanka and I've volunteered to be part of the effort. It's a drop in the bucket, but there are an awful lot of drops gathering out there.
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