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UNITED SIKHS, an international non-profit human development NGO, is currently working to provide humanitarian aid to victims of the Asian tsunami disaster. Current UNITED SIKHS projects include relief efforts in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nicobar Islands, South India, and Aceh, Indonesia.

Small Can be BIG
(Jan 15)
By Dr. Mary Jane Nations, Atlanta, GA (USA)

I have always been very particular about where and to whom I give donations. Iíve known of too many organizations that spend sometimes 80-90% of peopleís heartfelt gifts on administrative costs, leaving only 10-20% for the institutions or people for whom the funds were intended. However, when 9/11 happened, I, like millions of other Americans, was stunned to see how a few acts of hatred could decimate the lives of so many people in an instant. The pain it left in my heart made me want to do something immediately, so I abandoned my long-time donation policy and gave to the Red Cross. In the ensuing months, I was so disappointed to hear how long it took for the monetary donations to actually get to the victims and survivors. The two-year lag-time probably didnít really help the guyís family who was scrapping by with income from his street hot dog stand or the immigrants trying to make a new life working in the restaurants, offices and hotels in the area.

Upon hearing about the tsunami, once again I wanted to do something for the survivors who not only had all their basic needs washed away, but were ripped from their families and friends. In this case the cause was that inexplicable and overwhelming power of nature instead of the dark side of the human existence; but the trauma and devastation was no less horrendous. In fact, it was probably worse because our minds can somehow think about and come up with an explanation for human behavior, but it canít so easily for acts of nature. Questions about why it happened to these particular people and why some were left to live while others werenít simply have no answer.

This time, though, I happened to know about a relatively young organization called "UNITED SIKHS." I was already familiar with their mission to help others regardless of their religious or economic status. I couldnít believe how rapidly they coalesced their human and monetary resources to send aid to the tsunami victims. Their goal from the outset targeted survivors who were not already being reached by other organizations or government agencies. Furthermore, a friend of mine was volunteering her time to support the administrative tasks of selecting and organizing appropriate volunteers (those who already had skills needed for such an immense project). It became apparent that volunteers were doing all the relief efforts, from administration on down, precisely so that every penny of the donations could benefit the survivors themselves.

As much as I would have liked to go to south India myself and help, I knew I didnít have the language or work skills to be of much use. So, without hesitation, I sent my donation to UNITED SIKHS. Since then, Iíve been very gratified to read the field reports that the volunteers have sent back letting us know what is happening and how they are using the resources they brought to the tsunami victims. Theyíve carefully prioritized the needs and have coordinated their work with other relief organizations to avoid duplication of effort and expenditures. Iíve also learned that some of the volunteers paid their own way to India and filled their allotted baggage with items the survivors needed; items that were bought with their own money. This is service way beyond what you can expect and seldom see. I know that my donation is a drop in the ocean of the needs in the tsunami area, but at least, I also know that that drop became purified water in the mouth of a broken child or adult.

Mary Jane Nations, Ph.D.
Atlanta, GA

Donations in USA Qualify for 501 (c) (3) Tax Exemption