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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Jan. 3) - The people of French Polynesia have mobilized over the past several days to raise money and clothing for the victims of the December 26 earthquake and subsequent tsunamis that devastated Southeast Asia.

Charitable organizations such as the Kiwanis Club and the Rotary Club have reported a strong participation by the population of Tahiti & Her Islands.

While the Rotary Club effort involved donations of money, the Kiwanis Club effort involved donations of clothes.

"We are organizing a dual collection," French Polynesia Rotary Club official Jean-Jacques Delarce said Friday. "First there’s a collection by means of post office mail boxes since the Post Office is going to distribute in 40,000 mail boxes a Rotary brochure to mobilize people," Delarce said. "And, in addition, we are organizing a direct collection at two of Tahiti’s supermarkets."

But even before the brochure was distributed, Rotary Club members noticed donations had already begun spontaneously. "We’ve already received in our mail box more than 500,000 French Pacific francs (US$5,814/€4,1890) and I estimate that the donations this morning in one of the supermarkets will reach the same amount," Delarce said.

For him, such solidarity is nothing exceptional in French Polynesia. He gave as one example a collection a few years ago for the victims of Rwanda. Tahiti’s Rotary Club received 10 million French Pacific francs (US$116,279), "which is considerable", he said.

The Tahiti Rotary Club will transfer the donations being collected for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Southeast Asia to Doctors of the World.

The Kiwanis Club of Tahiti reported having already filled two ship containers with donated clothes. That amounted to some 50 tons of clothes collected in two days, said Guy Trompette, a Kiwanis Club official.

He said he had received telephone calls from the outer islands and even from people aboard sailing yachts in the area.

Trompette explained the local generosity and solidarity as having two reasons. First, there is the emotional reaction to the catastrophe. Second, there is the feeling among some people that if a similar event were to occur in French Polynesia, "we would also like some aid."

The Kiwanis Club will continue to collect clothing until January 7. Everything will then be transferred to the French Red Cross headquarters in Tahiti, which will ship the containers to Southeast Asia for distribution.

January 4, 2005

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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