Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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Jun 18th
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Strength to Stand Again - Circle Of Love

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The injuries inflicted by the tsunami were mostly physical contusions and psychological trauma caused from the loss of family. 

According to the Tzu Chi team, who spent many days in the disaster area, the majority of their patients were injured with physical contusions. These injuries had mainly been inflicted when people found themselves either trapped in whirlpools, or hit by fast-moving debris, such as bricks, machines, furniture, or cars. In addition, many people suffered from severe psychological trauma caused by witnessing the loss of some, or all, of their family members.

Although medical fees are waived at public hospitals in Sri Lanka, this doesn't mean that there is an abundance of available resources. There was a hospital situated about 50 meters (164 feet) from where the Tzu Chi medical team set up their station. The tsunami killed two of the doctors who worked there, so the hospital, which was already short of staff and medical supplies, was totally overwhelmed by the sudden influx of patients. The staff tried to cope with the situation with the assistance of a few doctors who were transferred from Colombo.

Mohammed Sisvi, 21, came to the Tzu Chi medical station for treatment for contusions. His wife, whom he had married only one month before, had died in the tsunami. He stayed in the hospital for five days for IV injections. After receiving his treatment, Mohammed told the volunteers that he would like to bring his mother too. She was treated in the Tzu Chi station the following day.

Doctors at the Tzu Chi medical station carefully diagnosed injuries, treated wounds, and tenderly inquired about the conditions of patients' families. If patients needed counseling, the doctors would ask volunteers to take over and assist. Nurses and pharmacists also carried out group activities in order to try to cheer up the waiting patients, while others examined their wounds or prepared prescriptions.

As the days passed, many families came to the medical station. Those needing medical attention went to see the doctors; those who didn't would simply talk to volunteers about their experiences so that they could leave the station in a more relaxed frame of mind. Some were so inspired by the work of the volunteers that they in turn volunteered to help other people.

Sri Lanka is a country deeply influenced by Buddhism. In the 3rd century b.c., King Asoka of India dispatched his son, Mahendra, to bring the religion to Sri Lanka, and the island became the home of Theravada Buddhism. For thousands of years, Buddhist philosophy has influenced Sri Lankan art, literature, architecture, and politics.

Many of Sri Lanka's temples were lucky enough to escape the tsunami's destruction, and as a result they became shelters for many survivors. The highly respected abbots of these temples also provided survivors with a much valued source of psychological counseling.

Across the street from the Tzu Chi station was a temple, and on the temple grounds was a bodhi tree so huge that it took over 10 people to surround it. It was at this place that the volunteers met Master Chandima. The young master, only 28 years old, had attained four university degrees. He had lost two brothers in the disaster; he himself had been saved because he had stayed in the temple. His spiritual cultivation allowed him to see the demise of his brothers with the Buddhist concept of conditional happening; he explained, "Buddhists believe that nothing in the world is permanent, and this fact is something we cannot avoid."

As people from around the world gathered to help, everyone was deeply saddened by the survivors' heart-breaking stories, but there was still hope. 

Members of two French organizations, Medecins Sans Frontieres and Telecoms Sans Frontieres, arrived a few days later. Helicopters from the British Royal Navy began constantly landing and taking off near the Tzu Chi station. When the pilots were free, they would often take a break at the Tzu Chi station.

Hambantota's incoming and outgoing communication networks were completely cut off after the disaster. Telecoms Sans Frontieres set up satellite phones to help survivors talk to their relatives elsewhere.

As people from around the world gathered to help, everyone was deeply saddened by the survivors' heart-breaking stories, but there was still hope. People from other parts of the world felt the pain of Hambantota's survivors and flew out to Sri Lanka to help. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the government, the two factions would not communicate with each other to help survivors under the control of the Tamil Tigers. It was indeed an added misery for these poor survivors.