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From the Field
Relief Workers' Report

GLOBAL SIKHS is an international relief effort to help the victims of the Tsunami in South East Asia. The mission is open to people from all races, religions and nationalities. The mission is a partnership between Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia, a 41-year old Malaysian-based youth organization, UNITED SIKHS, an international non-profit human development NGO, and Waves of Mercy, a group of Langkawi-based sailors. Our mission is to assist the humanitarian relief operations in Aceh, Indonesia, in the most effective manner possible.

The Account : Jan 13th and 14th
(Jan 14)
By Lakhvinder Kaur of Singapore, UNITED SIKHS Team Counsellor in Chennai, South India

Greetings to you all, Waheguru ji ka khalsa Waheguru ji ki Fateh

Jan 13th
We did shopping for the village folks: clothes and underwear, sanitary pads, food; the basic things. Mudasan odai, a village that is particularly neglected, has damage by the tsunami that is not quantifiable since they were poor from the beginning with no concrete homes. We decided we would buy them clothes because on our visit the first day, they told us they had only what was on their backs and we saw kids with no clothes.

Then we connected with Ganesh who works at the Collectors office. He has information on what needs help and where we can go. We told him we wanted to visit the orphanage, which we did. There are 40 children in this house, which is set up by the government, with 3-4 caregivers who are very kind.

They needed clothes and slippers, which we bought and then brought them back to the children. We then played with them and passed out soft toys and candies. The kids look well by Indian standards in the present situation. They do need, though, some amount of understanding and that special love which will help them to make sense of what has happened. We gave them sweets to eat and then decided to leave some in a tray on the ground they were all moving about. I was curious to see if any of them would snatch the rest of it for themselves, but they were all well behaved. There was no show of upheaval; they were settled to some extent. I found out that they do ask for their parents and do cry at times.

However the concept of discussing the pain, the event and tears is very hush, hush; they feel its best to not cry or talk about it openly as "its ugly to cry." I tried showing the caretaker how she can touch the children's hearts and be loving and affirming that they are loved. I like to work with them and want to see how much more we can help these most beautiful children emotionally. They go to school on Monday and it's a special school set up for them. I will find out more and let you know.

Jan 14th
We went to the village today to distribute the clothes. Of course, it's never enough for we were not fully aware that there are 104 residents of this island village. Many have gone back to mainland for they are afraid of the sea. There were five deaths here and many have no homes. The government has promised them relief but since it has not happened, they are unsettled. We asked what else they needed and were told to buy rice, oil, vegetables, and eggs since they have no fish, which was their staple.

We went shopping and bought less again 100 kg of rice for 104 residents, 50 kg of potatoes, 50 kg of onions, 40 kg of toor dhal. While this is a start, it is not sufficient. I realized how silly it was for us to do this for fear of fights among them for such things. These folks are provided with a bag of rice and that is for the rest of the month. We thought we had to provide them with everything at once: dhal, spices, salt, tamarind, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, bananas, etc. or it wasn't worth the bother. But there was a lesson here: something is better than nothing. For they look forward and are grateful for it. I personally feel we should keep going to villages as much as possible to give food and clothes and to bring them a little laughter. All of it is temporary for we leave soon. Our efforts might be better spent working with local organizations that are doing work with these people on a long-term basis. Language and culture are both problems. It is harder to overcome these if one is here for such a short time. We will do far better if we help the locals through rehabilitation programs dealing with the people's emotional states and their self-concepts.

Although the folks are hardy, the children are my greatest concern. For now everyone is in a survival mode worried about getting what they need and anxious if volunteers go to another village instead of theirs to help. The concept of scarcity is amazing but there is also a degree of people helping one another, too.

The short-term needs are somehow getting met; we do need to focus on a long term plan now.


Project Coordinator's Note - "I just had an opportunity to speak to Randip Singh and Lakhvinder Kaur. They are in high spirits since they are able to help those children emotionally in a direct way. Lakhvinder Kaur is a Social Scientist and a Counselor who has worked with women in children in Nigeria. Randip Singh is a Community Works major in Canada. According to them the children are terrified and have a lot of emotional issues. They don't understand what happened and they are not allowed to release their fear by crying or sharing.Upon receiving Randip Singh's report we at UNITED SIKHS are looking into providing more counseling and emotional support by providing Tamil Counselors and / or translators. Please look for updates in coming days. Please do whatever you can to help."
- Gurmeet Kaur of Atlanta, GA (USA), Project Coordinator for UNITED SIKHS Relief team in South India

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