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Strength to Stand Again - Shore Of Suffering

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A Place To Go To
Shore Of Suffering
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Kanthi lost three children in the tsunami. She hadn't eaten for days but simply murmured repeatedly, over and over again, her wish: "Let me die..." 

Tsunami survivors stayed with relatives and friends, or sheltered in local temples, mosques or schools. There were over 30 shelters in Hambantota, and the Tzu Chi volunteers visited a few of them.

In a temple in Mirijjawala, J.K. Alexander, 51, a grieving father and fisherman, described what had happened to him. His daughter and her husband were attending the Sunday Market when the tsunami hit, and they had been missing ever since. Alexander had been searching for them for days, but had found only the rusted remains of their bicycles and nothing else. His daughter had left behind a survivor--a one-month-old baby boy. Alexander's wife explained that the baby had no milk for five days after the tsunami, but fortunately some kind person had given them some milk powder so that they could feed their grandson. The little baby had survived the tsunami, but he had suffered the tremendous loss of both parents without ever having seen the beauty of the world through his eyes. He hadn't even been named yet.

Kanthi, 40, lay rocking on the ground in the corner of the temple. Before the tsunami, she had split her time between working at a garment factory and looking after her three young children. They were killed by the tsunami, and as a consequence Kanthi hadn't eaten or drunk anything for three days. All she could do was continually murmur, "Let me die. I've lost all my children and my life is hopeless. Just let me die..."

Dr. Yang Chih-kuo from the Tzu Chi team instantly recognized that the woman was suffering from severe psychological trauma, and he prescribed medicine to help ease her terrible pain. The woman's manager, Janaka Botejue, asked the doctor to give him the prescriptions for the necessary nutritional supplements so that he could buy them for Kanthi.

Numerous Sri Lankans were suffering from these same terrible problems. The Tzu Chi team stopped in front of a simple home that housed several families. A couple with injured legs told how they had been trapped in a whirlpool in the tsunami. When they regained consciousness, they discovered that they had lost seven members of their family. Drs. Yang and Chang Chia-ning treated their wounds.

Among the crowd was a nine-year-old girl called Risla Adahan. She was at home with her family on Sunday when a sudden roaring sound filled the skies. Her father yelled to everyone to run, and when they rushed from the house, Risla found herself swept up within the tremendous force of the wave. She was dragged along to a lagoon 200 meters (656 feet) from the sea. She held tightly onto a floating refrigerator and was rescued by a woman. Although she survived, her entire family had been killed.

Darshana Prasad, the team's interpreter, spoke quietly to us, "Risla is in such a state of shock that she probably doesn't comprehend yet that her family members have all been killed." Risla was being adopted by her uncle, Tuan Jabbar Adahan.

Adahan was the sole remaining relative the girl had to depend on. His family was saved when he helped them run to higher ground, but the tsunami had continued to wash away and destroy everything they had ever owned. When Risla asked him where her parents were, Adahan could only tell her, with tears streaming down his face, that he would take care of her from now on.

Adahan was a fisherman and a devout Muslim. His relatives had always gathered together once a week, but the tsunami had terminated that custom forever.

Sri Lanka is a typical example of a rural agricultural country. Forty percent of the population work in farming and produce mainly tea leaves, rubber and coconuts. Sri Lankan black tea is famous worldwide. Because the country is surrounded by the sea, residents in coastal towns mostly work in the fishing industry.

Fishermen know that there are risks in their business. "This disaster was the most ruthless one, but it won't be the last one," said Adahan, who knows this industry well. Fishermen can only rely on their gods for protection.

The sea destroyed everything Adahan owned, including his home and boat. He still prays to Allah to help him get back to the ocean and continue with his life. "Allah gave me everything, and I commend everything to Allah," said Adahan helplessly, yet peacefully.