Liza and her family. (KCRG TV photo)

An Indonesian teenager who’s attending school in Iowa is watching her home fall apart halfway around the world.

Siti Nurhaliza Abd. Kadir , Liza to her friends, is a foreign exchange student at Mid-Prairie High School in Wellman. The 17-year-old told KCRG-TV it’s painful to be nearly 9,000 miles away from her family in Palu following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the city.

“I want to go home, but I’m not ready for seeing the reality that happened there,” Liza said. Palu is the capital city on the island of Central Sulawesi, where the death toll has reached more than 1,500 people. Liza’s family survived. She contemplated returning home before talking with her mother.

“My mother said, ‘You have to be strong. You chase your dream. You have to stay.’ This is my dream,” Liza told KCRG. “I want to make my parents proud, my family proud because I am here because of them.” Because of poor cell service, Liza has had limited contact with her family. She’s been watching videos, news sites, and social media to get any information she can on what’s happening in her home country. Meanwhile, the exchange student’s host mother – Kim Gordon – says she’s trying to boost Liza’s spirits.

“When she found out she came out to me and was like, ‘Can I just have a hug?'” Gordon said. “She just started crying and telling me everything that was going on. It’s just heartbreaking because it’s hard to know how to support her and what we can do for her.” Liza will return to Indonesia at the end of the school year. She’s encouraging Iowans to give what they can to help provide the people of Palu with food, water, and medicine.

The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders are among the groups involved in the relief effort.