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Joplin schools get $500,000 from United Arab Emirates

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - A $500,000 gift from the embassy of the United Arab Emirates to spend on laptops is the latest donation aimed at helping tornado-damaged Joplin, Missouri, schools prepare to open next week.

School district officials said on Wednesday the $500,000 will help meet a goal of providing all 2,200 Joplin High School students with a personal laptop.

The UAE embassy will donate up to another $500,000 to match any other contributions for laptops, district officials said.

Laptops will enable students to access educational resources, such as online textbooks, in the wake of the May 22 tornado that destroyed the high school and two other schools while damaging half of all school buildings.

The district has a fund-raising goal of $2.7 million for the laptops, spokesman Jim Dunn said on Wednesday. Insurance funds can be tapped for some of the funding, he said.

The May 22 tornado took 160 lives and destroyed about 30 percent of Joplin, a city of about 50,000 residents. It was the deadliest tornado in the United States in more than 60 years.

Many other donations have been made to the schools since the tornado, ranging from $25 by various individuals to $250,000 and $500,000 by two families, said Melanie Dolloff, who is a volunteer helping to coordinate fund-raising for the district.

"It's overwhelming," Dolloff said on Wednesday. "We have had people reaching out from all over the world."

The tornado wiped out the classrooms, books and supplies of 260 Joplin teachers, Dolloff said.

Thousands of local students will attend classes in temporary locations in the coming school year.

Late last month, singer Sheryl Crow, a Missouri native and former teacher, announced she would auction off her Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster and give proceeds to Joplin schools through a fund-raising foundation in Springfield, Mo. The car is projected to bring from $50,000 to $80,000.

The United Arab Emirates is an oil-rich Gulf Arab state bordering Saudi Arabia consisting of seven emirates headed by a single ruling family. It is the world's third-largest oil exporter and has the world's eighth largest per capita income. The UAE has used some of this wealth to donate to various charitable causes around the world.

(Writing and reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)

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