Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Dec 08th
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Home Our Missions Mission of Medicine Indian Ocean Tsunami in South Asia

Indian Ocean Tsunami in South Asia

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Just after Christmas,
an overwhelming undersea earthquake
caused a series of Tsunami waves
rolled over the South Asian coastal areas.
Thousands of homes and lives lost.
How did inhabitants survive the disaster aftermath?
Tzu Chi provided immediate emergency relief,
and comfort for the victims.
All they want for repay
was a smile from the people they served.

On December 26th, 2004, the largest earthquake ever of the twentieth century occurred in the Indian Ocean. This earthquake had an epicenter off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. With a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richer Scale, the energy released was the equivalent of sixteen thousand atomic bombs or two hundred fifty six times bigger than the “921” earthquake in Taiwan. This massive release of energy triggered a deadly tsunami that devastated Sir Lanka, Malaysia and eleven other countries. There was no advance warning of the tsunami, which claimed more than one hundred thousand lives and destroyed several million homes.

Emergency Mobilization
About twenty thousand people died in Sri Lanka, alone. In order to prevent a pandemic, Tzu Chi mobilized its emergency relief team immediately. Rather than sending an advance disaster survey team, Tzu Chi directed a TIMA emergency response unit directly to the disaster area to provide prompt medical service and set up a medical station. At the same time, TIMA’s other units collected information in the affected regions. After assessing the situation, TIMA brought in medical equipment for a long-term care project.

On December 29, 2004, the first TIMA response unit that arrived in Sri Lanka consisted of doctors and volunteers from different countries, including Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, United States, and Canada. Since March of 2005, Tzu Chi had directed eight international relief operations. A total of one hundred and two volunteers and medical staffs were involved in this operation. Everyone took part in distributing daily supplies such as rice, sugar, and cooking oil supplies. In total, the operation had served more than twenty seven thousand victims.

Patients’ Tracking – Physically and Mentally
Injuries caused by Tsunami are different from earthquakes or hurricanes. It is common to see fractures or wide contusion wounds created by heavy objects swept   up in the powerful waves. Also, the mental suffering as a result of the devastating disaster and lost families is beyond words.

TIMA doctors discovered that they needed to spend time with each patient not only for diagnoses but also recording their family history along with patients’ own description. If the patient was the only survivor in the family or with symptoms of depression, doctors would make special notation to identify them for long term care and follow up. For some patients who didn’t return for a scheduled check up, TIMA volunteers would track down the patients for follow up.

Victims Transformed into Volunteers
TIMA group encouraged victims to participate in assisting other victims or volunteers. Not only would they have the opportunity to contribute, but also an incentive to motivate others through participation. Dr. Chien-Chun Kuo from Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital brought in different color coded vests from the emergency room. They became handy and useful in the station. When the villagers wore the vests, they became instant volunteers. People who wore the red ones were assigned to assist in translation. Orange vest volunteers helped setting up the clinic tent. Then there was this one pink color vest. Dr. Kuo chose an eleven years old girl named “Ganadi” for this prized one. Ganadi helped passing out water to the patients. She was also a traffic cop directing the patients who were waiting in lines. Ganadai was deeply saddened for the loss of her friends and uncle in the disaster. However, after she became a volunteer and helping others in the clinic, it made her happier.


The Beauty of the Jing Si Abode


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" If our views and thinking are misguided, what we do will be mistaken. "
Jing-Si Aphorism