In the News

2008

Greg and Kirsten talked about helping the victims of Cyclone Nargis on the Denver CW2 9 pm news.

Diarmuid talked about helping the victims of Cyclone Nargis on the Denver 7 news.  Here is their story:

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/16233257/detail.html

Local Nonprofit Hopes To Help Cyclone Victims 

Myanmar Casualties From Cyclone Said To Reach 100,000

POSTED: 4:37 pm MDT May 11, 2008 

DENVER -- A group of Coloradoans have launched a nonprofit organization to help a school in a village devastated by the cyclone that struck Myanmar nine days ago.Myanmar's state television said the death toll in last week's cyclone has jumped by about 5,000 to 28,458. It said Sunday that the number of missing now stands at 33,416.
Other humanitarian groups said it appears that more aid is getting through as roads are cleared of fallen trees and piled-up debris. But Myanmar's reclusive military rulers have barred foreign relief workers from entering the country and said they will hand out all donated supplies on thier own.nternational aid groups, however, said the death toll could eventually top 100,000 as conditions worsen. Oxfam's regional chief Sarah Ireland warns of a potential health catastrophe, saying as many as 1.5 million people in Myanmar could die from disease if they don't get clean water and sanitation soon.Greg Martinez, Kristen Koehler and Diarmuid Truaz traveled to Myanmar last year to deliver supplies to a school in a village outside the capital Yangon.
The school was severely damaged as well. The directors said two of the schools' three buildings were destroyed and half of the homes in the village were demolished.The school is using the remaining building to provide food, shelter and day care to as many families as possible."It's very difficult to get water, it's very difficult to get rice, he said that the area where the cyclone hit is very rich rice-growing area," said Diarmuid Trua, co-founder of Sense the World.Truax's organization is accepting donations on their Web site to provide more money to the school.

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We were featured in the Longmont Colorado Times-Call

http://www.timescall.com/Local-Story.asp?ID=8720

Myanmar village gets help from Longmont

By Eric Barendsen
Longmont Times-Call

LONGMONT — As the death toll rises in the wake of the cyclone that devastated coastal regions in Myanmar, a Longmont charity hopes to throw a lifeline to one affected village. 

Longmont residents Greg Martinez and his wife, Kirsten Koehler, founded a nonprofit in April called Sense the World, which they say will bring basic items such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and toothbrushes to poor countries. 

Concerned about the shift in media focus from Myanmar to the earthquake that rocked China on Monday, Koehler said Myanmar residents still desperately need help. “It’s nice to go and say, ‘Some of us haven’t forgotten you. Some of us care,’” she said. 

The couple hope to raise money through their Web site, SensetheWorld
.org, to send to a village called Thanlyin on the outskirts of Yangon, the former capital. They visited a preschool there in March 2007, where they met locals and distributed items they’d brought to help out. 

The experience changed their lives. “It’s the joy that we get from interacting with the people. Everywhere we’ve been, they want us to stay,” Martinez said. “They want to feed us. They sing songs. They take pictures with us. It’s just a communal feeling.” 

Two of the school’s three buildings were destroyed in the cyclone. A Swedish man who owns the school reported to Martinez and Koehler last week that electricity had not been restored and diesel fuel, needed to pump drinking water, is in short supply. 

“Even though aid is starting to get in ... he told us, the price of food, building materials, and basic necessities has doubled or tripled,” Koehler said. “Right now, he’s providing food, water, day care and shelter.” 

The Swedish owner, whose name the couple won’t reveal due to the Myanmar government’s interference with the international aid effort, wants to rebuild the day-care facility to give parents a safe place to put their children.

The model Sense the World will use for future projects, in which the couple or volunteers personally take supplies to impoverished areas, won’t work in this case, Martinez said. 

“Obviously, bringing eyeglasses to people who don’t have drinking water isn’t going to help,” he said. 

Instead, donated money will be first sent to Thailand, then hand-delivered by volunteers to the school, where it can be used as needed. Initial funds will be used to secure water and basic services. When the situation has stabilized, the money will be used to rebuild the school, Koehler said. 

To help the fundraising effort, Sense the World is selling discount tickets to the Rockies baseball game Sunday. Tickets are $27, and nearly half the proceeds go to aid Myanmar. 

In late July, the couple will hold a silent auction featuring sports memorabilia and goods they’ve brought home from recent trips to Southeast Asia and Peru. 

Reminiscing about the schoolchildren in Myanmar, Koehler recalled how beautiful they looked. “Clearly, the one dress they were wearing was the only dress they had,” she said. “It warms your heart to see them and to be able to make a difference, but it’s heartbreaking at the same time.” 

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Kirsten was interviewed for the Fremont, California Argus newspaper:

Fremont native looks to help Myanmar preschool

Matthew Artz
The ArgusArticle Created: 05/21/2008 08:21:42 PM PDT

A preschool in the Myanmar village of Thanlyin was never much to behold — just three thatched-roof shacks with dirt floors in a town with no paved roads, electricity or running water, said Fremont native Kirsten Koehler.

But the place she visited on a humanitarian mission last year sounds like a fantasy land compared with what's left of it after Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar earlier this month.

About 50 percent of the buildings were destroyed and 80 percent were severely damaged, including the preschool, said Koehler, who is in e-mail contact with the school's headmaster.

Rebuilding has proven difficult, Koehler is told, because of runaway inflation and rising prices for building supplies and diesel fuel, which powers the village's water pumps.

"It's more of just a logistical disaster," Koehler said of the village that is far enough inland to have avoided the storm surge believed to have killed more than 100,000 people.

Last year, Koehler, a Mission San Jose High School graduate studying in Colorado, and her husband, Greg Martinez, learned about the school while getting ready for a vacation to Southeast Asia. After contacting the headmaster, they paid a visit and brought with them school supplies, eyeglasses, toothbrushes, soccer balls and other items donated by friends and family.

Now they are hoping to come to the aid of the village once more by raising money to help rebuild the school. They plan to send money directly to the headmaster, thereby circumventing the military regime, which has been accused of stealing aid packages and doing little to help the victims of the cyclone that struck May 2. 

The school had about 15 students and catered to the village's poorest children — many of whose mothers earn less than $1 a day carting water for wealthier residents, Koehler said. The kids, who were studying English, greeted the couple enthusiastically and were quick to play with the soccer balls and coloring books they brought.

"It kind of makes you realize that kids are kind of universal," Koehler said.

The biggest hit among the supplies they brought were Polaroid cameras that allowed many of the mothers to take their first family portraits. Since returning from the trip, the couple has started Sense the World, a nonprofit group sending relief packages that include items to serve the five senses, such as hearing aids, reading glasses and toiletries.

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