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Strength to Stand Again - Living With Pain

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Uditha said that he felt his country was like heaven. Although the tsunami was certainly terrible, the resulting help from so many people around the world had opened a window for the people of Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka has rolling hills, lush green grass, and dense blankets of trees. The island is full of flourishing tropical plants and sweeping beaches dotted with palm trees spread out along the coastline.

The country also has numerous natural parks. Cattle walk freely on the streets and peacocks, monkeys, wild birds, and komodo dragons also enjoy the embrace of nature.

Sri Lanka's natural beauty and abundance of wildlife has always attracted tourists from all parts of the world to spend their holidays there. Its people also live relatively freely in this Shangrila environment.

"This is the real Sri Lanka!" our interpreter, Silva, would call out whenever he saw smiles on people's faces as he led Tzu Chi volunteers through the streets. The excellent levels of nature conservation and the peaceful coexistence between man and animals show that the residents are simple, good and kind.

Seventy percent of the Sri Lankan population are Buddhists, and many are proud to be body donors. In 1970, ophthalmologist Hudson Silva set up the International Eye Bank to export corneas to other parts of the world. Taiwan started accepting corneas from Sri Lanka in 1980, and since then many people in Taiwan have been able to see the world again after receiving cornea transplants.

Sri Lanka has suffered an unprecedented tsunami which totally destroyed local infrastructure and shops. No tourists are coming now, and as a consequence hotels have had to close down. The local economy was, and still is, seriously affected. Everyone, whether directly affected by the tsunami or not, still had to line up to receive relief goods. Sri Lanka is a country so warm in spirit that, despite the severity of the tsunami, it still opens its heart to the world. Uditha, a volunteer Tsu Chi interpreter, said that living in Sri Lanka was like living in heaven. The tsunami might have brought tremendous pain and agony to the local people, but with support and love from people around the world, they will stand up again and grow.

Postscript: From late December 2004 to January 19, 2005, the Tzu Chi medical station in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, served over 11,000 people. On January 18, Tzu Chi signed a memo with the Sri Lankan government to build 1,000 homes for survivors. At the end of January, the foundation decided to distribute two months of rice to over 80,000 people in Hambantota and 2,000 cooking utensils to survivors in Tangalla.

The Tzu Chi Indonesia branch office shipped 18 containers of relief goods, including 14,000 blankets from Taiwan, to Medan, North Sumatra Province. The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture also sent 33,000 tons of rice and two water-purification machines that can provide drinking water for 250,000 people. In addition, a follow-up relief plan includes building 3,000 homes and infrastructure in Banda Aceh and 3,000 house-like tents in Meulaboh.

By Chiu Shu-chuan
Translated by Lin Sen-shou
Source: Tzu Chi Quarterly Spring 2005