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Though he was born in the United States, Harvey Siskind Jacobs associate Nishan Kottahachchi still feels a tie to the South Asian island country where his parents were born. So days after December’s deadly tsunamis hit Sri Lanka, Kottahachchi took a few days off to help coordinate relief efforts for the Sri Lanka Medical Association of North America. Every Sri Lankan family in the United States “knows someone who was affected by the storm,” whether they were injured or killed, or lost family members or homes, Kottahachchi said. “The rebuilding effort is going to take decades.” Mere days into the aftermath, the 27-year-old associate is among local lawyers and firms involved in fund raising and volunteer work to help at least 11 countries hit by earthquakes and tsunamis that began Dec. 26. Harvey Siskind Jacobs partner Mark Jacobs is another. As a board member of a volunteer organization that helps nonprofits with IT projects such as Web site design, he was to leave Friday for a hastily planned, two-month volunteer trip to Chennai, India, one of the stricken cities. Jacobs said he would be working with other CharityFocus volunteers from India to gather data about relief needs so the group’s Bay Area volunteers can build a “Web-based command center.” He expects India-based groups will use the site to coordinate activities and decide how to best deploy their volunteers. In addition, the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, which early on encouraged its roughly 300 members to donate to various nonprofits, is planning to solicit large firms — particularly those where bar association members are partners and those with an office in Asia — to take part in a matching contribution program, said President Meetali Jain. The group is also putting together two fund raisers aimed at attorneys, law students and judges in the next two weeks, one of which will be held at Bingham McCutchen in San Francisco, Jain said. Though the bar association’s membership has roots in a number of countries, Jain said, the group decided to focus its limited fund-raising power on Sri Lanka, which had the second-highest reported death toll among the stricken countries as of Thursday. The proceeds the bar association raises will go to Karuna Trust, a group based in Sri Lanka, as well as the Sri Lanka Medical Association of North America, www.slmana-east.org, which Kottahachchi works with. Kottahachchi says his family and friends in Sri Lanka survived. His uncle, in the southern city of Galle, had to run from his store when the wave came. “He said there was just no warning whatsoever.” His uncle clung to a fence for a half-hour, long enough to live. But from his perch he helplessly watched friends wash away, Kottahachchi said. “We also know several families that weren’t as fortunate,” Kottahachchi added, citing a Los Angeles doctor who lost his wife and daughter. Kottahachchi contacted friends across the country whom he knew from his days at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., encouraging them to get their firms to donate, he said. Though he’s working with a few groups, most of his efforts so far have focused on the medical association, of which his pediatrician father is president. The nonprofit usually raises money to provide medical equipment to Sri Lankan hospitals, but it’s focusing now on sending medicine and water purification tablets. “Right now what we’re trying to do is stop the spread of disease that’s caused by water contamination,” said Kottahachchi, who was to return to the Bay Area this week to start a trial. “That’s like the main concern for all the foreign aid agencies.” To that end, the intellectual property lawyer has been pitching in while two leaders of the association’s West Coast offices are in Sri Lanka, trying to raise money and make sure that the group doesn’t duplicate the efforts of other organizations. California is “one of the biggest legal markets in the country,” Kottahachchi said. “There’s a lot of good firms can do.”

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