Tsunami relief: Man tosses chainsaws-- aside for a while

"I juggle a chainsaw," says comedian Dave VanDerveer. The same iron will that allows him to simultaneously toss eggs and tree-felling equipment should serve him well in the weeks to come.

For the time being, VanDerveer is putting aside his comedy juggling show for a mission, Mission Tsunami.

He's leaving on Sunday for a disaster relief trip to India and Thailand. His "Mission Tsunami" fundraisers that seemed to be happening everywhere over the last month have netted over $20,000.

"The turnout was great," says Downtown Thai owner Pikke Inthisen, whose restaurant was home to one event. "We raised $3,000 or $4,000 in one day."

Now, VanDerveer will travel to the areas affected by the December 26 disaster to help distribute the money himself.

"A lot of organizations don't have the administration to disperse these funds," he explains. "We're able to find out where they need the money and go in where the governments and the big organizations are failing."

Still, he says that he'll consider just giving the money to a more capable organization– if he can find one. "I don't think the administration is bad with a lot of these things," he says. "They're just overwhelmed.

"Part of my strategy is to help the economy [in the affected areas]," he says. That includes buying new nets for some of the fishing villages despite his own vegetarian lifestyle and related religious beliefs.

"Money goes a long way there, because things are so cheap," says VanDerveer. "T-shirts cost a dollar over there. We can hire people for $3 a day in India– so for $30 a day I can have a 10-person crew rebuilding roads and homes," he says. Given the "basic necessities" nature of the need, VanDerveer questions the wisdom of soliciting donations of toys and other non-essential items.

Volunteers are even cheaper, though, and that's precisely why VanDerveer, 42, is looking for help here at home. Inthisen has offered to arrange living accommodations for any volunteer relief workers willing to pay the $800 airfare, and will be leaving with her group on March 12 to meet VanDerveer in Thailand. Anybody who wants to help but can't afford to make the trip can drop off donations at Downtown Thai.

"When it first happened, everybody needed clothes, and then we were sending crates and crates of clothes, and nobody needed any more clothes," he says. "Now they need to get to get their lives back online. They're going to need help for years."

Come chainsaws or high water, VanDerveer intends to give it to them.

David VanDerveer


David and his wife Kumud VanDerveer