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How New Yorkers Can Respond to Kyrgyzstan Crisis

June 23, 2010

NEW YORK - Renewed ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan has led to what has been called one of the most severe refugee crises in the former Soviet Union since the collapse of Communism. Some New Yorkers are asking how they can help; others may be asking why they should help. Bill Farrell, of the humanitarian aid group Mercy Corps, says the turmoil in Kyrgyzstan has impacted a million people in the nation of 5.2 million. He believes Americans will be willing to reach out.

"If you're a New Yorker, you're an American; I have a strong sense that our compassion as Americans doesn't end at our borders."

According to Farrell, Mercy Corps has been operating in the country since 1994; it has a micro-finance company with 90 offices around Kyrgyzstan and, in the past year alone, reached a half-million people there with aid and support.

Janysh Osmon, a founder of Kyrgyz Club of New York City, estimates a couple thousand Kyrgyzstan expats live in New York State, mostly in and around New York City. He says help is needed for those suffering in his home country.

"Even five or ten dollars will eventually help. Whole cities have been shut down and they don't have electricity, water, food, and they need our help right now."

Osmon says donations can be made at the website, where much of the information is in Russian but English speakers can easily see how to contribute.

When asked why someone who may not know exactly where Kyrgyzstan is - let alone how to spell it - would be interested in helping out, Bill Farrell's answer is that the situation is compelling.

"A fifth of the country has been affected by this disaster. A large number of them are women and children. And, for an American or anyone else who has the wherewithal to provide resources, it's impossible to ignore that level of need."

Farrell notes in addition to Mercy Corps, there are many other organizations raising relief funds. He encourages people to first educate themselves about the situation.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY