CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Former and current students of Central Middle School posed for a portrait with members of the Rotary Club of Downtown Honolulu in Sandra Kaneshiro's classroom on Friday. The students raised $1,000 that paid for school desks for children of Kashmir who were affected by the October 2005 earthquake. In the front row from left are Lan Luo, 15, and Ting Ting He, 15; second row, Sandra Kaneshiro, Wang Nga Chan, 15, Newlyn Retonong and Ariannerae Zaragosa, 13; third row, Lily Lum, 15, Xia Xia He, 17, Cindy Vu, 15; and standing in back are Rotary Club members Gui Albieri and Pamela Gassett.
Hawaii students help kids in Kashmir
Cindy Vu and her friends had hardly heard of Kashmir when a Pakistani visitor came to their middle-school class and showed them pictures of destruction caused by an earthquake.
The magnitude-7.6 quake, which hit in the early morning Oct. 8, 2005, killed about 75,000 people, displaced millions and destroyed some 10,000 schools, officials have estimated.
Vu and a dozen of her Central Middle School classmates felt compelled to help, spending several afternoons and weekends over many months to raise $1,000 for the victims. This summer, children at the Ghazali Education Trust School in Balakot, Kashmir, received 30 desks bought with the money.
"We wanted to show people that the United States can help, and not just watch them suffer," 15-year-old Vu said Friday, when the students -- most high school sophomores now -- reunited at Central Middle for the first time to look at pictures of the donated furniture.
The effort began last spring when former Lahore Rotary Club president Almas Jovindah met with the Hawaii students. The children, who were with the school's Earlyact Club in a partnership with the Rotary Club of Downtown Honolulu, ventured across Oahu to sell about 500 Entertainment books for $10 each at downtown shops, Aloha Stadium's swap meet and the state Capitol.
COURTESY PHOTO / ROTARY CLUB OF DOWNTOWN HONOLULU
Students in Kashmir are shown sitting at their new desks, paid for with money raised by Central Middle School students after an earthquake in 2005.
"We are very proud of the kids," said Pamela Gassett, whose downtown Rotary Club adopted Central Middle. "It was one of the highlights of our club, to see how much they really enjoyed helping other people. It was elective and they could had been doing a lot of other things."
Jovindah brought the money raised to the nonprofit, Kashmir-based Ghazali Education Trust. The desks were delivered in July, about a year after fundraising ended, Gassett said, noting that political unrest in the region delayed the project's completion.
"When I saw these pictures ... I almost fell off from my chair," said Gui Albieri, a Rotary Club member who helped coordinate the initiative, which was featured in the International News, an English newspaper in Pakistan. "It was just a beautiful lesson of how we can trust each other and how we can accomplish something huge."
Albieri, who works at Hawaii Pacific University's international admissions department, said he was impressed with the students, some of whom were able to sell books despite being English-language learners.
"I just learned how to say, 'Help,'" joked Lan Luo, a Chinese student now at McKinley High School. "Some people are so poor, and they have some trouble, so they need help."