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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Help needed please: local agencies in Sri Lanka and Burma

Spririt Rock in Marin is coordinating help to local agencies in Sri Lanka and Burma.

I understand that some of you who want to send help to local agencies in the affected areas may find it rather dubious to be sending money and other resources to organizations that are virtually unknown to you. Today, I received an email from Spirit Rock about two local foundations, one in Burma, and the other in Sri Lanka.

I don't know about these organizations personally, but I have known Spirit Rock, a Vipassana meditation center in Marin, for many years now. I have total confidence in their legitimacy and judgement, and so I am more than willing to pass on their request for assistance. If the good folks at Spirit Rock are willing to vouch for these two organizations, I am more than certain they are trustworthy.

Please send help if you could.
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December 29, 2004

Dear Pim,

As you may know, Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka are among the hardest hit by the recent earthquake and tsunami that has cost tens of thousands of lives (perhaps 100,000 by the time you read this), devastated countless villages and towns, and left literally millions of people homeless.

The wisdom and skill that has been given to us in the form of the practice of Vipassana meditation was born in Asia. The Buddha experienced enlightenment in India. The wisdom he taught others has flowered into the Theravadan Buddhist tradition and is quite alive today in Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.

Many of us have been to places that have now been washed out to sea. In Thailand, one report I heard said that the tsunami had reached up to three kilometers onto land. Burmese villages (from which no news is allowed out by the ruling military junta) are very close to Phuket Thailand, which has been devastated. I think we can assume these areas of Burma are even harder hit because of the almost total lack of infrastructure and government aid.

As we celebrate New Years here in the safety and luxury of the Bay Area, I ask that you send your healing wishes to the many, many poor people whose lives have been unalterably changed by this disaster.

If you are able, I also ask that you make a donation to aid in their recovery.

I am providing information below from two grassroots organizations that are friends of Spirit Rock. In addition, I’d like to pass along the news that our dear friend and revered elder Ajahn Jumnien and his monks are safe. He was in Bangkok when the tsunami hit Thailand’s Krabi Province. His monastery, Tiger's Cave, is in Krabi but is fairly far inland.

Sarvodaya is in Sri Lanka and is headed by the famous peacemaker Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne. It is a grassroots peace and economic development organization with field offices all around the country. Their relief efforts began almost instantly on the morning of the disaster. They are the local partners for many international aid organizations. They have also asked for our direct assistance.

The Foundation for the People of Burma is an American organization that provides direct aid to projects inside Burma without the involvement of the Burmese military government. They have projects working already along the Thai-Burmese border and one of their medical teams is on their way now to the affected area in Burma.

Whether you send your prayers, make a donation to an international aid organization such as the Red Cross or Oxfam, or you make a donation to the grassroots organizations I mention below, I know you will join me in wishing that the millions of people affected by this disaster will find comfort and well being in the knowledge of your good wishes.

From the Foundation for the People of Burma:

BURMA'S TSUNAMI VICTIMS AND COASTAL
COMMUNITIES NEED YOUR HELP

REPORTS OF:
• 90+ deaths (likely much higher)
• at least 1,500+ missing
• 17 coastal villages confirmed destroyed (likely more)

Dear Friends and Supporters,

This is an urgent appeal for help for some of the poorest of the poor.

The world is focused on the South Asia disaster, and the death tolls from Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia are mounting by the hour. Virtually no information or first-hand accounts have come out of Burma, however.

Nonetheless, a quick look at the map shows that southern Burma had to be terribly affected by the tsunami (some good additional maps can be found at Relief Web). The Burmese islands and coastline around the Andaman Sea are just slightly north of the Thai resort of Phuket, which was devastated. In that area of Burma, a unique seafaring people known as the Sea Gypsies (Salone, or Moken) have lived simple lives dependent on fishing for centuries. Their lives will never be the same.

The Foundation for the People of Burma needs your help. Our medical team will be in the affected area next month. With your help, we can alleviate some of the suffering that has resulted from this disaster. With enough support and local participation we can help the people there rebuild their communities for a better future.

All of your contributions go directly to alleviate suffering. The low administrative overhead of the Foundation is fully funded by private donors.

Please consider making a special, tax-deductible contribution now.

Funds may be sent to:

FOUNDATION FOR THE PEOPLE OF BURMA
Burma Tsunami Relief Fund
909 Montgomery Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94133

415-486-6527 ph
415-486-6786 fax
www.foundationburma.org
IRS EIN: 94-3375666

Contacts:
Hal Nathan, President: (415) 486-6516
Heather Graham, Executive Director: (415) 486-6527
Helen Gunthorpe, M.D., Medical Director (415) 713-4728

Checks should be made payable to: Foundation for the People of Burma. Please specify whether you would like your donation to be used toward the Burma Tsunami Relief Fund, or general programs.

Donations in the form of cash wires and stock transfers are also welcome. Please contact us for account instructions. Donations with your credit card can be made via the DONATE box on the website. (Checks or wires are preferred, however, since there is a small administrative fee taken out by JustGive, the nonprofit that processes our online donations.)

Thank you for your compassion in this grave moment.

Hal Nathan and the Board of the Foundation for the People of Burma

More information on the Foundation is available at our website: www.foundationburma.org

From Sarvodaya:

Sarvodaya response to the national calamity: Tsunami hits Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was hit by a massive tsunami on December 26 around 8 am, caused by an earthquake in Indonesia (9.0 magnitude on the Richter scale).

More than 22,000 people are feared to have died (as of 12/29/04), but the estimates could go even higher as updates come in. More than 1 million are displaced or homeless. This is the biggest natural disaster to hit Sri Lanka in recent history. This particular wave came up slowly, rising sixteen times during the day, causing most of the destruction as it receded back into the ocean.

Sri Lanka had a three-day holiday weekend and many people had been visiting relatives or had taken a trip to the beach. It is therefore even more challenging to determine the full impact of the tsunami, since thousands of people are missing, unaccounted for or far from home. December being peak tourist season for Sri Lanka an unknown number of foreign tourists have been affected.

Communication is presently difficult to impossible. Getting an accurate assessment of the devastation’s extent is difficult. Phone landlines and mobile phone connections are virtually non-existent in many parts of the country and the electricity supply has been cut off. Even police and rescue teams cannot reach many affected areas. Rumours are spreading and misinformation is becoming rampant.

A call to action
¨ Donations, financial and in kind, are needed for most pressing immediate relief efforts.
¨ Thousands of people have lost their jobs or will lose their jobs as, for example, many tourists might leave the island in the next few days and weeks.
¨ Mobilizing counselors: Psychological trauma counseling needs will arise in the near future as people are trying to cope with life after the initial shock.
¨ Long-term rebuilding of vital infrastructure: sanitation, water, electricity and public services have been wiped out and need to be rebuilt. This requires a long-term financial commitment beyond the initial clean-up and first response effort.
¨ Please check the webpage www.sarvodaya.lk on how to donate.

Destruction in The Coastal areas

Sri Lanka’s coastal areas were the hardest hit. The most affected are the poorest of the poor who live very close to the beach, often sandwiched in-between the sand and the train tracks or road. The proximity to the waterline and the vulnerability of their wooden huts left thousands of people dead and 1 million homeless without access to even the most basic necessities. Although exact numbers are not available yet, women and children are bearing the brunt of the disaster.

The Eastern, North-eastern and Southern side of the island were the most affected, especially the populated area around the city of Jaffna. Many areas on the Eastern Coast are very remote and inaccessible and information is scarce. The cities of Matara, Hambantota and Galle on the Western side were very heavily affected as well. Coastal roads and train lines have been destroyed and it is currently virtually impossible to physically reach the most affected areas. The road to Galle has been closed some 80km south of Colombo.

The IMMEDIATE NEEDS

Getting to the affected areas is still the biggest challenge. Collecting bodies and cremating or burying them is crucial to avoid further health problems.

Sarvodaya’s response:

Sarvodaya’s reputation makes them the prime partner for foreign aid and donor agencies to disperse relief funds and makes Sarvodaya an important partner in the current disaster response efforts.

As soon as the news of the disaster reached the Sarvodaya headquarters on Sunday morning December 26, the special disaster management unit began to receive reports from the Sarvodaya district offices in the affected areas.

For many years Sarvodaya has experience responding to natural disasters like floods, droughts and landslides. Sarvodaya has the infrastructure to deal with disasters of this nature although nothing of this magnitude has been seen in Sri Lanka before. With its unique structure of 35 district coordinators and 360 divisional coordinators it is very well connected to the grass roots. Sarvodaya’s reputation in the community makes them a trusted partner in its outreach activities.

In addition Sarvodaya can draw on and mobilize over 100,000 volunteers from Shanti Shena, the “peace brigade”. Shanti Shena has trained young people between 18 to 30 years of age to deliver first aid to villages and organize the “village to village heart to heart” peace dialogue.

WHAT HAS been done so far:

Dr. Ariyaratne and other officials met in the afternoon of December 26 and decided to establish two disaster relief centres in the Colombo area. One is at the Sarvodaya Nagarodaya Centre and the other is in Moratuwa at Sarvodaya headquarters.

Sarvodaya field offices provide vital feedback about the scope of the disaster and the immediate needs in their community. Relief and first response efforts are coordinated here around the clock, having started around 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 26.

· A team of senior Sarvodaya staff and volunteers have been sent to affected districts, such as Matara, Galle, Hambantota, Batticloa immediately. Their role is to provide assistance to the district coordinators as they respond to their communities’ most basic needs. The necessary instructions have been given to make sure the district offices are empowered to do what is needed.

· District Linking Plan: An immediate, concrete action plan based on each communities particular needs has been implemented, including the removing of dead bodies or assisting in health posts and hospitals.

· Collecting donations: Sarvodaya is collecting clothes, food, and other goods. Community support keeps coming in at all times from the larger Colombo urban area. Medical supplies are collected and sent to places where they are most needed.

· The business community and professional associations, like the medical community, are also stepping up to the challenge and have offered direct help through the Sarvodaya network structure.

· Larger national and international relief organizations are in the process of finalizing their arrangements for support through Sarvodaya.

· Medical emergency help: Immediate response teams have been sent to the affected districts by car where it is safe to drive.

· Medical students and first aid volunteers are providing immediate relief at emergency shelters in the Moratuwa area.

· 50 medical doctors have joined the effort organized from here.

· In Moratuwa alone there are some 3000 people reported to be displaced and have sought shelter in temples and churches. They have been provided with immediate food, relief and water as much as possible.

· There are hundreds of Sarvodaya villages in each district directly affected by the tsunami. They expect some form of direct, fast and immediate assistance from Sarvodaya in the time of need. Sarvodaya villages not directly affected want to help those in other Sarvodaya villages as well as neighbouring communities not a part of Sarvodaya.

Financial Assistance
For Foreign remittance
Account Name Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya (Inc.)
Account No Acct. No 159000 8015
Account Currency US Dollars
Bank Commercial Bank of Ceylon Ltd.
Branch Moratuwa
Address No.116, Galle Road, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
SWIFT CCEY.LK.LX

Contact Us
Sarvodaya HQ
No98, Rawatawatta Road,
Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
Phone +9411 2655 255
+9411 2655 110
Fax +9411 2656 512
Web: http://www.sarvodaya.lk/

Look for the following to make a donation. [There seem to be some bad links in the web site, so look for this on their web site or use the link provided here:]

People who wish make money donations online can do their donations by using MasterCard please click here (VISA card payments will be activated only after 9:00am (Sri Lanka Time) 30-December)

From Sarvodaya USA:
The Non Violent Peaceforce has graciously offered to accept contributions through its secure website as well, and will forward all relief funds directly to Sarvodaya without a handling fee. (http://www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org/english/help/donateToSarvodaya.asp)

The best place to get current information is this website: www.sarvodaya.org
Because of infrastructure problems the websites we ran before the disaster were offline for several days. We are at this moment arranging for online contributions but want to assure anyone who contributes that their donation is acknowledged and tracked.

That's why sending your check to our Los Angeles office is best: Sarvodaya USA, 5716 Manchester Avenue #3, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

We also want everyone to have accurate, up to date information. So we encourage you to subscribe to the list serve:
How to subscribe. Go to: http://www.sarvodayausa.org/scripts/lyris.pl
Click on the link saying General discussion of Sarvodaya issues. A page listing many lists hosted on the webserver comes up. Click on the link saying cybervillage Enter your email address and password.

Press the button that says Click here to enter cybervillage. You will be placed on a form that allows you to do the following:

1. Read messages (look at all of the messages yet sent to the list)
2.Create a new message to be sent to the list.
3.Change your settings (how often you receive mail from the list, password, etc.)
4.Unsubscribe

Again, thank you. We are gratified to see such an outpouring of compassion and action.

With great appreciation,
Rick
Richard S. Brooks
Sarvodaya USA
2616 Mason Street
Madison, WI 53705 USA

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Here at home (in San Francisco), information is available on other organizations participating in relief efforts at the web site of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship: http://bpf.org/html/whats_now/events/tsunami.html

I can only echo Sarvodaya’s traditional email tag line- and our eternal wish:

may there be peace on earth

Evan

evan kavanagh
executive director
spirit rock meditation center
415-488-0164 x221 fax 488-1026

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Help needed please: local agencies in Sri Lanka and Burma :

» Reach Out & Help Someone from Sweet & Savory
This is suppose to be a food blog, but I feel that the devastating impact and aftermath of the tsunami has left needs to be address. The sheer number of people effected by this natural disaster is just astronomical. It... [Read More]

» Reach Out & Help Someone from Sweet & Savory
This is suppose to be a food blog, but I feel that the devastating impact and aftermath of the tsunami has left needs to be address. The sheer number of people effected by this natural disaster is just astronomical. It... [Read More]

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