On Monday, May 12, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake devastated southwestern China. By that Saturday, Laura Kimball was mobilized.
The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School senior set out to raise money around the Island for children affected by the disaster.
She went to Main streets in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven. She went to Stop & Shop. During the next week she collected money in her school’s cafeteria — “So kids can be part of it too” — and then went to her school’s talent show and the Tisbury town picnic.
Her set-up was a table and a sign. “Please Help,” it read. She had covered it with images she’d found that chronicled the mourning of the survivors and the pain of the injured and displaced. She had newspapers and printouts, updating people on the latest news coming out of China and the devastation as the death toll climbed past 68,000.
Her original goal was to raise $1,000. But when it looked like she would exceed that, she upped her target to $2,500. By the end of Memorial Day, Laura had $2,605.
“People have been so generous,” she said. “They feel for these people who have lost families.”
Now living in Oak Bluffs, Laura was born in China and left when she was eight years old. “This hits home with me,” she said.
According to the Associated Press, the aftermath of the quake has been especially hard on children, with some 4,000 children orphaned by the disaster. Many schools collapsed in the earthquake, killing more than 10,000 students.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Laura said. Something that bothered her was the effect China’s one-child policy would have on parents whose children had fallen victim to the earthquake. “All these people losing their only child.”
This week, Laura is working through her school to put the funds all together as a check to the relief organization Save the Children.
“I’m a kid,” she said. “Why not have the money go to kids as well?”
In response to the earthquake, Save the Children is using funds to create safe areas in Sichuan Province meant to provide a sense of normalcy for kids amidst the disaster.
“Our focus is on establishing child-friendly places where children can come and play,” said Eileen Burke, director of special projects at Save the Children.
Laura Kimball is part of a wave of students across the country finding little ways to raise money for victims of the natural disasters in both China and Myanmar, where a cyclone earlier in the month claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people.
Student organizations at schools such as Duke University and Marshall College have been fundraising for various relief groups while younger kids are finding little ways they can help too.
“I think it’s great that people in the world — kids like me — come together to support their peers,” Miss Kimball said. “One world.”
After hearing about the efforts of the Oak Bluffs senior, Ms. Burke said she was touched.
“This made my day,” she said.
And it’s not the first time Laura has done what she could to help those affected by natural disasters.
In 2005, she and her neighbor set up a lemonade stand to raise funds for relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina.
This time around, her friends Marjorie Lucas, Rosa Parker and Carol Mercier, all high school seniors, helped her throughout the week, making sure she didn’t have to do it all by herself.
“It just made you really appreciate the Vineyard and the people,” she said.
Laura plans to take a gap year after graduation to go to China, something she’d been planning since before the earthquake. She wants to donate her time, possibly by volunteering at an orphanage.
Donations by check may be made payable to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (memo: earthquake relief); mail to MVRHS, P.O. Box 1385, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.