Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chile exchange student aids her homeland far away

Imagine you're a 16-year-old foreign-exchange student from Chile. You're visiting America, and while you're here, you learn that an earthquake has ravaged your home. What do you do?

If you're anything like Mendham High School foreign-exchange student Francisca Madrianza Montoya, you get involved helping in any way you can.

Montoya used every opportunity she could and collected donations at her school for earthquake relief.

"I talked with the principal and asked him for some help," Montoya says. For five hours after the quake didn't know whether her family members were alive because communication lines were knocked out.

Her family was safe, but an estimated 1.5 million Chileans were reported displaced by the damage caused by the Feb. 27 earthquake.

"And the International Club helped me, too. They said it would be good to make some collections inside the school, so the first thing they did was go to basketball games in Mendham, and I collected $216," she said, giving credit to International Club leader and teacher, Joy Burdette, for helping.

That was only the beginning.

"I started another donation (event) inside the school," Montoya says. "I made a bake sale after school Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and I walked around at lunch asking for donations. Every day, (we collected) around $200."

After the bake sale, Montoya advanced the cause at school functions in the theater department.

"Then I went to the play, 'Guys and Dolls,' where I got about $300," Montoya says. "For everything at the end, it added up to $1,715."

The money will benefit an organization that Montoya has been working with called Un Techo para Chile.

"I gave the money to the school, and the school will write a check to an organization in Chile that will rebuild houses," Montoya says.

Apparently, helping those in need runs in Montoya's family. Her mother, who owns a supermarket in Chile, also aided those who lost their homes in the earthquake.

"When this earthquake happened, she didn't rest," Montoya says. She was fortunate: She found only minimal damage to her supermarket.

"She opened it and gave the people what they needed — water, bread, whatever she had, she would give, because as my mom, said, 'We are lucky. We didn't lose the house.' "

Those who wish to donate to Montoya's effort may visit and click on "donaciones."

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