Tsunami Relief Project

By: Rebekah Baum
By: Rebekah Baum

"We did good for that island, and it's an experience and a feeling I'll never forget."

You can see the enthusiasm on Chris Hempfling's face. On Tuesday, Chris and seven Rockford college students returned from Sukorn Island, a tiny 4-mile by 8-mile piece of land off the coast of Thailand...

"It was directly in the line of the wave that came through so it was affected pretty significantly. Especially when you think of the level of tourism revenue the island tried to generate from it," says Hempfling.

Following last year's devastating tsunami, Chris and Brad Lauman co founded "HART" or Humanitarian Action Response Team.

"To look at the global situations and decide how the college could best respond to any needed area of focus, or emergency that may have happened," says Hempfling.

The group contacted the Thai government asking what they could do to help.

"There's an island off of Thailand that wants a shelter built, but there's no way we can do it now. So, we stepped up and said, let us take on this project, let us fund this project for you," says Hempfling.

Seven students were selected to take part in the project and around $30,000 was raised and on December 10 the first group left. Chris and four more students departed on the 27th and in less than a month an emergency shelter was built.

"What this shelter will help the community do is provide them a safe haven if a Tsunami should ever happen again," says Hempfling.

Chris says Rockford College will always retain a strong bond with the people of Sukorn Island and a relationship that will continue to grow.

"When we left, that community was in better shape than they were beforehand, and that's a feeling that's hard to capture...and if you could put it in a bottle and sell it, you'd be a millionaire," says Hempfling.

Rockford College is planning to bring the islands' top student to Rockford to take part in the ESL program. Chris says the group may head to the gulf coast for its next project.

If you'd like to make a donation to "HART," contact Rockford College.


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