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Church of Santa Maria
in Paganica

L'AQUILA, Italy, April 6, 2009 - A powerful earthquake in the mountain villages of central Italy knocked down whole blocks of buildings as residents slept, killing at least 297 people, officials said. Upwards of 40,000 residents were left homeless and at least 1,600 were injured, 200 seriously. The earthquake's epicenter was about 60 km northeast of Rome near the medieval city of L'Aquila. The earthquake struck at 3:32 a.m. local time in a quake-prone Abruzzo region that has had at least nine smaller jolts since the beginning of April. The U.S. Geological Survey said Monday's quake was magnitude 6.3, but Italy's National Institute of Geophysics put it at 5.8.

If you would like to help the victims, you can donate online through the Coccia Foundation or the Italian Red Cross. Click here to donate.

In addition, the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and the region of Abruzzo are working with several American universities providing scholarships for students displaced by the earthquake. The NIAF/Abruzzo Adopt-a-Student Program will offer 125 students from the University of L'Aquila full scholarships to continue their academic studies in the United States. The campaign also provides the cost of textbooks, supplies, travel to and from Italy, meal plans and housing in residence halls for the undergraduates.

"NIAF's goal is to raise US$1 million. Every dollar donated helps NIAF meet the needs of so many displaced students," NIAF President Joseph V. Del Raso, Esq., said.

As a donor to NIAF/Abruzzo Adopt-a-Student Program, a contribution of US$500 will cover a student's cost of textbooks and supplies for one semester; US$1,000 will allow for a student's travel to and from Italy for the academic year; $2,500 will provide a student with a meal plan for one semester; US$5,000 will provide one student with housing in a residence hall for two semesters; and US$9,000 will cover all non-tuition expenses for one student for an academic year. Donations at all levels will be accepted.

On April 29, 2009, NIAF President Joseph V. Del Raso, Esq. and the Foundation's secretary John F. Calvelli traveled to Rome and L'Aquila in Italy to meet with prominent officials of the Italian government and the United States Embassy to discuss allocation of funds collected for the Abruzzo relief efforts. At the site, NIAF announced a partnership between the University of Miami in Florida, and Sierra Nevada College in Nevada. The universities will offer full academic scholarships to the displaced students from the University of L'Aquila.

Individuals, corporations and foundations who wish to donate to the NIAF/Abruzzo Adopt-a-Student Program can contact NIAF/Abruzzo Adopt-a-Student, 1860 19th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009. All donations are tax deductible.

For more information about NIAF/Abruzzo Adopt-a-Student Program, contact Serena Cantoni, director of education and culture, at 202/939-3111 or

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the heritage and culture of Americans of Italian descent.

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