By VIJAY JOSHI / AP WRITER
KUALA LUMPUR — When the teacher asked her class how it can help Cyclone Nargis victims in Burma, Steven Bawmying suggested laying a long underground pipe to send drinking water from Malaysia.
The plan didn't fly, but Steven and other children in the school for Burmese refugees came up with a better idea: They wrote short pieces about their lives—mostly sad tales of survival—published them in a colorful children's book and earned 25,000 ringgit ($7,000) from its sale.
On Tuesday, the children donated the money to World Vision, a Christian charity group, ahead of the first anniversary of the cyclone, which slammed into Burma's coast on May 2, 2008, leaving nearly 140,000 dead or missing.
Tens of thousands more were left homeless and destitute as the cyclone cut a swath of destruction through the country's main rice-growing area. World Vision has an extensive relief program in Burma.
"I saw on TV a lot of people were suffering. People had no water so I wanted to help," said Steven, who is now 12. "I told the teacher we can connect a lot of pipes together all the way from here to Myanmar [Burma]."
Steven is among the 160 ethnic Kachin minority children at the school in Kuala Lumpur operated by volunteers.
The UN has registered 47,600 refugees living in Malaysia, of whom 42,300 are from Burma, having fled the country's repressive military regime.
Belle Luer, a volunteer teacher at the school, said she was moved by the children's willingness to help the cyclone victims. One girl said she could write letters of love and encouragement and others said they would save 10 cents every day, she said.
Ultimately, the kids decided to publish the book, "My Beautiful Myanmar," which has 23 stories and drawings, mostly about persecution and escape from the military authorities.
Thanks to a discount offered by the printer, Luer was able to print the 40-page book cheaply. It is now on sale for 15 ringgit ($4) at Borders bookstore. She said she hopes to raise 100,000 ringgit ($28,000) from it.
"We are humbled by these little ones. They may be young and small but they are giants in spirit," said Liew Tong Ngan, the head of World Vision Malaysia, who accepted the initial check of 25,000 ringgit.