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Basalt students start “penny war” for Nepal aid

May 1, 2015

Tashi Jackson and Karuna Owens are students at Basalt Middle School.
Credit Elise Thatcher

Two young residents of the Roaring Fork Valley are pitching in with the effort to help repair after the massive earthquake in Nepal. Basalt residents Tashi Jackson and Karuna Owens are starting a fundraising competition.

  The strategy is called a penny war, and it’s scheduled to start Monday at Basalt Middle School, where both 11 year old girls attend class. “We set a bucket in each grade, so you put pennies in and that each counts for points,” explains Karuna, while we sit outside a cafe. “And if you put any silver or checks or a dollars in, it accounts for negative points. So you get points taken away. But the end, all the money just goes to Nepal.”

Tashi and Karuna have dubbed it “Coins for Compassion,” and they hope the competitive spirit among their peers will help raise money quickly.  “And then maybe we might throw a party at the end, or something,” says Karuna.

The penny war is expected to continue about three week, and the girls might collect donations at various hotspots around Basalt, too. “I thought it was a good idea because there’s lots of sad things that are happening in Nepal,” says Tashi, “and people need help there. [It’s ] really compassionate to do it.” She’d like any funds raised to go towards critical needs, like “food, or for shelter, things that people need.”


Karuna points out she and her friend have a special connection to the Himalayan country. “We were both adopted and born in Nepal, and [fundraising] would really help our people,” she explains, “and I think they will know that some other people in other countries care for them too.”


Karuna and Tashi have returned to Nepal since they were adopted. Karuna went back about five years ago and visited a popular trekking area. So did Tashi, who spent time in the Everest region.


“In 2012 I went back and I met my mother, and I met my sisters too,” says Tashi. “Right now my family’s is ok, but they would need a lot of help, because there’s lots of very sad things happening there.”

They would receive some of the donations from Basalt. Money would also go to other immediate relief for people in Nepal, as well as a school with children from a particularly hard hit area. The plan is to keep track of where any dollars are sent. Karuna hopes they can expand fundraising beyond Basalt, to other middle or elementary schools. The Basalt Middle School penny war.. and Coins for Compassion... begin Monday.