RABBI MENDEL DRUK
City: Oak Park
Kudos: Toys, Not Tears
At age 23, Rabbi Mendel Druk brought
Jewish outreach to communities in
Germany and Russia, and this past
Passover conducted seders for American
medical students in the Caribbean. Last
month, he spent time in Thailand as
project coordinator for the Chabad's
Children Helping Children Tsunami Toy
Drive, a program for American children
to donate toys to children in Thailand
affected by the December 2004 tsunami.
The collection culminated into a May 8
carnival in Phuket, Thailand, where
thousands of toys were distributed.
How did you get involved with the
children of Thailand?
"Rabbi Yosef Kantor, the chief rabbi
of Thailand and leading Chabad emis-
sary to the region, told me when he was
roaming the disaster area, he saw chil-
dren looking in a pile of garbage taking
out a toy and decided to make this
drive. He explained that you cannot
bring back their parents or rebuild their
homes in the near future, however, a toy
will bring smiles and joy to their faces."
How did the word get out?
"I began by contacting local
Chabad centers and some of them
contacted their local schools and
organizations. Then, we got some
media coverage, and I began receiving
e-mails from all over the country and
even from other continents."
How did you organize the toys from
so many sites for shipping?
"The first thing I did was rent a
warehouse in New York and suggest
everyone ship their gift there. Hun-
dreds of boxes began arriving and the
toys were sent off to Thailand."
What happened in Thailand?
"I was there for a week to see the
fruits of our labor and to attend a big
event where we distributed the thou-
sands of toys. The children live in
Rabbi Mendel Druk with some helpers and kids at a carnival for Thai children
orphaned by the tsunami.
refugee camps. Some have temporary
housing but most have plastic covers
over their head. It is a very sad scene.
"We provided everything the kids
needed to come to the event: buses,
clothing, shoes, meals and entertain-
ment. For most, it was their first time
out of the tsunami camps. I wish
every child who took part in the toy
drive could have seen the faces of
these children when they received a
stuffed animal or a toy truck." ❑
— Shelli Liebman Dorfman,
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