Poh (Samvat 536 Nanakshahi)
AID IN SOUTH EAST ASIA - TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS
KUALA LUMPUR - The attempts to provide relief aid to areas worst hit by December
26th’s Tsunami disaster has proven a challenge for international relief
agencies. Logistics of transportation to the areas for volunteers and
relief aid supplies, furthered by security issues and a history of
political unrest in many areas has complicated attempts to reach the
victims. The crash of a supply plane at Banda Aceh airport delayed flights
coming into the affected areas for more than 17 hours.
constant barrage of flights into the airport has further slowed delivery
of supplies, prompting the test of an innovative solution to access the
out lying and remote villages by GLOBAL SIKHS, a Tsumani relief team
comprising of Malaysian-based organization MALAYSIAN SIKH YOUTH (Sikh
Naujawan Sabha Malaysia) and global human development organization UNITED
SIKHS. Instead of moving by air into Banda Aceh, the band of volunteers
originating from Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Canada are moving
via sea. The plan: to reach directly to affected areas without delay.
Above: Volunteers receiving
supplies in Kuala Lumpur.
The group, which has gathered more than 500
tons of relief aid material, leave the island of Langkawi,
Malaysia on Friday at 10am local time. They will be carrying
medicine, emergency supplies, food, water, and several tons of body bags.
Besides that, GLOBAL SIKHS will also be taking along with them generators,
water purification equipment, and mechanical diggers.
team wanted to go into Aceh via air, having secured some 30 seats on
flights chartered by a newspaper group. However, after the crash of the
supply plane, the team's intelligence sources had found
out that many relief teams were already at the airport, waiting in queue
to move out into affected areas beyond the airport in Banda
After much deliberation, it was resolved that
the sea route, despite its inherent drawbacks of speed and last mile
access, now seems more attractive.
team of about 25 volunteers include 10 medical personnel. The others are
engineers and Langgar (food) specialists. The team and supplies are being
transported by a passenger ship and cargo barges. The passenger ship which
carries the team members would be converted into a hospital ship on
arrival as it has water purification equipment on board.
have chosen this method of access after consulting the Indonesian
authorities and intend to setup base camp in Lhokseumawe in north eastern
Aceh,” says Malkith Singh, a senior volunteer with Global Sikhs, who will
be leading the first excursion.
transport ships have been organized by a group of Langkawi-based sailors.
They will be form a supply road from Langkawi to Lhokseumawe on a weekly
Above: Coordination team
SIKHS have their operations centred at Sabha House in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. The
centre has been frantic with activity for the last few days receiving donated
items such as food and medical supplies from the public.
Above: Briefing meeting
collaboration started with a simple request from UNITED SIKHS directors in
New York and London to one of its directors, Rishiwant Singh in Malaysia:
“We want to got to Aceh. Can you lead the way?”
Rishiwant Singh’s first reaction as he recalls was: “But there are
loads of other aid agencies. What could we do? It is difficulty
Nonetheless, the phone calls to Rishiwant Singh didn’t stop.
Jagdev Singh, UNITED SIKHS director based in Spain, called Rishiwant Singh
at 5am and asked, “If no one else can help us, why can't five of us go?”
He was referring to the five beloveds central to the Sikh
couldnt sleep that night,” recalls Rishiwant Singh. “First thing in the
morning I went to Sabha House and met Malkith Singh of Sikh Naujawan Sabha
there the partnership started and the rest is history. Since new year’s eve, the
phones haven’t stopped ringing to the Indonesian authorities to get permission
to enter the affected areas. Jagdev Singh arrived in Kuala Lumpur with a team of
volunteers from the UK. Amongst them is Dr. Susheelwant Kaur, a young doctor who
starts her posting at a hospital in Wolverhampton in February. Dr. Kaur says
that the medical supplies kindly donated by the Malaysian pharmaceutical
companies and the international public are sufficient for the few weeks but will
need to be replenished regularly.
|Harbhajan Singh, diarist for Global
Sikhs, reports, “The last few days have been hectic, with plans changing
by the hour. Each new development has required tweaking of the plan
Meanwhile, Sabha House has been a hub of activity. Carloads of
medicines and water bottles have been delivered. Phones haven’t stopped
ringing. Now, after the long pause of waiting, the team is preparing to
finally enter the field. Reports are received that the situation is very
grim. Grown men who came to the affected areas to help have had to be sent
back because they couldn’t stomach the smell of
Above: Operations Centre in Bangsar, KL
Singh, a young volunteer for UNITED SIKHS from Eastern Canada, arrived on
Thursday in Malaysia and joins the team at Langkawai as they depart
for Aceh. UNITED SIKHS director in England, Mejindarpal Kaur, says the number of
volunteers has been encouraging and overwhelming. “We have a sufficient number
of volunteers at this stage of our project, which focusses on immediate food and
medical assistance and assessment of long-term needs,” Kaur said, “However, we
encourage individuals who would like to volunteer in the next stages to
e-mail their applications to firstname.lastname@example.org and to
visit our website for further updates. This relief effort will require many
volunteers and financial assistance from donors worldwide."
Devastation in Tamil Nadu is evident as victims mourn and volunteers work
to provide relief aid.
Meanwhile, GLOBAL SIKHS team members have undergone the necessary
vaccinations and are psychologically preparing themselves. On Tuesday, team
members who volunteered to go into Aceh also underwent a one-day course on basic
relief work. The course, patched up at the last minute, brought together some
experienced relief workers. Their experience and advise will surely better
prepare the Sikh relief team. At noon local time on Thursday, GLOBAL
SIKHS held a press conference in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, to describe their plans
to the local and international media.
Above: Office bearers of Guru Nanak Sarbat Sikh Sangat
discuss relief efforts in Cuddalor
This year Sikhs celebrate the 300th anniversary of the revelation
of the ‘Red Cross’ ideology by the 10th Sikh master when he gave the
'first-aid box' to Bhai Ghanaia who provided relief aid to war-victims,
regardless of their affiliation. In the 18th Century Bhai Ghanaia was a
revolutionary, seeing divinity in all beings and providing assistance to
everybody without prejudice. Inspired by this, UNITED SIKHS is calling
their relief project GHANAIA (Giving Humanitarian Aid Necessities and
Assistance Impartially to All) and hopes to live up to the great legacy.
addition to their involvement in current efforts by GLOBAL SIKHS, the
GHANAIA Tsunami Relief Project continues to extend in other areas affected
by this tragedy. UNITED SIKHS coordinator in Thailand Amarjit Kaur reports
that volunteers there are in consultations with local community
organizations to arrange for rehabilitation of victims in Phuket, which
has been a popular international tourist destination for many years. A
team of UNITED SIKHS volunteers from the UK, Canada and USA will be
providing medical assistance to victims in Phuket beginning in the middle
Teams heading for Chennai and Sri Lanka, lead by
UNITED SIKHS project leader Esher Singh of Patialia, are also departing
soon, as they prepare for the largest relief effort in history.
In Cuddalor area of Tamil Nadu, teams are working together under the
banner of Guru Nanak Sarbat Sikh Sangat, to help rebuild the community’s
Fundraising efforts have continued
around the clock and around the world, as the increasing costs for
rehabilitation efforts are overwhelming. UNITED SIKHS has drafted posters
and sample letters, available on their website, for fundraising efforts to
be coordinated around the world. UNITED SIKHS director in New York,
Hardayal Singh, requested donors worldwide on Thursday to help with
fundraising. “We ask individuals to approach their local community
organizations, churches, gurdwaras and social groups to assist the GHANAIA
Tsunami Relief project so that we can provide direct, immediate and
effective aid to the victims of this tragedy.” He added, “We appreciate
the support of the community thus far and we hope the continued support
will be there as this is a long-term project with overwhelming costs.
Donations to UNITED SIKHS can be made by bank transfer, cheque, in person,
or online. The information for all of these formats is available on our
website at http://www.unitedsikhs.org/reliefproject.html."
Above: Global Sikhs operations
None of this effort is possible without financial
contributions. Please exercise your responsibility of Dasvandh (10%
Donation from Income) and donate to the Relief Fund. Your contribution
will have real, immediate effects that will provide sustenance and hope to
the disaster victims.
Please donate, even if you cannot give a lot. Your
contribution will help victims
You may donate online by clicking above, or
choose one of the following options for your convenience:
- Donate by cheque/check payable to UNITED SIKHS, and
mail to a UNITED SIKHS regional office.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE
GHANAIA TSUNAMI PROJECT,