Thai students sponsor tsunami aid fund-raiser

By Gus Bode

300 people attend dinner, raise $5,900 for disaster victims

SIUC’s Thai students are doing what they can to help tsunami victims in their homeland, and local residents have proven they are happy to help – especially if there’s food involved.

More than 300 people attended the Thai Student Association’s Thai dinner fund-raiser at Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship Friday night, helping to raise $5,900 for tsunami relief.

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Some stood in line for 25 minutes to get a taste of Thai food and to help aid Thailand, which suffered between 5,000 and 8,000 deaths after a massive tsunami Dec. 26 flooded shores throughout Southern Asia.

“We didn’t expect that local people would be so generous,” said Porngarm Saengratwatchara, a doctoral student who manned the donations box.

Many visitors contributed a donation on top of their $6 to $10 meals.

About 10 members of the Thai Student Association served up beef panang, chicken green curry, garlic pepper pork, Thai spring rolls and other Thai foods while offering as refreshment a choice of Thai iced tea, Thai iced coffee or, for the less adventurous, soda and water.

“It was fabulous,” said Vennie Anderson, Unitarian Fellowship Secretary who took time to help wrap napkins and silverware to keep the lines moving. “I loved it. I had never tasted Thai food before.”

Thai Student Association President Nut Tiranasar said none of the organization’s members lost family or friends in the disaster, but they were compelled to do something.

“We thought, ‘What are we going to do? How are we going to help?'” Tiranasar said. The students settled on sponsoring a dinner and contacted the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship, who agreed to co-sponsor the students.

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Anderson said her fellowship was eager to help the Thai students organize their dinner.

“We have a strong sense of social justice, so it fit right into our principles,” Anderson said.

Tiranasar said the long lines of people and the crowded parking lots – many visitors had to park at the adjacent Parrish School – were far beyond his expectations.

“Tonight is too much,” he said, smiling.

Tiranasar said the funds the students raised will go to the Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Reporter Tim Johnson can be reached at [email protected]

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