Brian Petersen

Feb 24, 2005

Kettering grad aids tsunami victims.

When Brian Petersen graduated from Kettering in 2003 and took a good job at Ford, he didn't start spending his money unwisely. In fact, the young graduate was still driving his 1992 Ford F150 with more than 240,000 miles on the odometer. He had student loans to pay and was the holder of a lean bank account, thus was unable to contribute monetarily to the tsunami relief effort, but this didn't stop him from raising money to fly to Sri Lanka to aid tsunami victims.

The Sunday, Feb. 6 issue of "The Community Press" of Genesee County featured a story on Petersen's efforts to help those affected by the devastating tsunami. Petersen took a three-week unpaid leave of absence from his position at Ford, which fully supported his efforts, to fly to Sri Lanka and help with relief efforts. To make the trip possible, members of his Church-St. Cornelius Catholic Church in Dryden, Mich., -donated enough money to pay for his air fare. As he notes in the article, "I couldn't afford a room, so I slept on the floor of the airport each time. I got some pretty funny looks."

In Sri Lanka, he roomed with a Buddhist from the United Kingdom and learned some important life lessons about other cultures and the power of people from all over the world coming together to aid victims of a tragedy. During his efforts, he helped sort donated clothing for families who'd lost everything and helped in various clean up efforts.

"If I were to sum up the experience and in seeing what I've seen," Petersen said, "I would say it's critical to support efforts in Asia because it's a land of lesser opportunity than the U.S. Should a tsunami hit the west coast, we would have it rebuilt in a year. In Sri Lanka, it might take 10 years. They simply don't have the resources or social infrastructure to handle the disaster. This is an opportunity to show that being American isn't just about economic freedom, but about accepting more moral obligation than we're asked to. After all, what makes America great is that we bear the responsibilities that we're not responsible for."

Today, back at his job and with family and friends, Petersen plans on continuing to help by spreading the word about how important it is for everyone in the United States to help those ravaged by tragedies. Although he doubts he can afford to return to the island to help further anytime soon, he did say that if he is able to raise money, "I'll send it. The devastation is so profound and the people really need the help."

Written by Gary J. Erwin
Tel: 810-762-9538
Thanks to "The Community Press" for material used in this story.