News at Tipitaka Network
Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar rush to aid cyclone victims
Compiled by Tipitaka Network Newsdesk, Sunday, May 18, 2008
Tropical cyclone Nargis caused great devastation in Myanmar, with damages continuing to rise, and the death toll likely to be in the tens of thousands. At the first instance, Taiwan Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi volunteer in Myanmar with over 100 local volunteers, immediately carried out distribution of aid supplies and medicine to the disaster victims sheltering in the local temples. On May 10, a delegation of volunteers from Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan have also arrived in Myanmar, to further assess situations on the ground.
According to Tzu Chi Foundation spokesman Her Rey-sheng, the delegation is being sent to Myanmar to obtain the most up-to-date information on disaster areas in the southern part of the country. "The delegation will visit seriously-hit areas and choose a location to be a base for Tzu Chi's relief efforts. It will also set up channels through which Tzu Chi can get humanitarian assistance to the victims of the cyclone," Her told the Central News Agency.
An estimated 100 to 200 volunteers are already active in Myanmar's hard-hit disaster areas on Tzu Chi's behalf, Her said, but the organization wanted to send senior people to the country to provide a broader overview of the situation. "We hope that through the delegation's assessment, we at Tzu Chi will better understand what people in disaster areas really need, enabling us to provide them with appropriate assistance," Her stressed.
Although Myanmar has been stonewalling on allowing foreign aid workers and disaster relief teams into the country, Her said Tzu Chi's delegation was able to obtain visas in Thailand and Malaysia after applying for them earlier in the week. The delegation will be bringing medicine and water purifiers with it to stem potential epidemics in areas lacking water and basic sanitation services. "We are really concerned about the possibility of an outbreak of contagious diseases, such as cholera, in the region," Her said.
An emergency conference took place at the Tzu Chi headquarter in Taiwan on May 7, where it was decided that Tzu Chi volunteers from Thailand, Malaysia, and Taiwan would join forces with Myanmar Tzu Chi volunteers to continue the first wave of relief efforts in Myanmar, and to gain additional insights into the nature and extent of damages in order to assess further relief plans. The Tzu Chi assessment team arrived in Myanmar on May 10.
Myanmar's area is approximately 676,500 square kilometers. Among the population of 56.5 million, 1.6 million are of Chinese descent and 89% are Buddhists. Thus after the disaster, temples have become temporary shelters for many victims.
Tzu Chi volunteer in Myanmar is grateful to still have a home after the cyclone struck, but has to live with no electricity and only scarce water. However, the harsh conditions have not dampened Tzu Chi volunteers' will and determination to assist the disaster victims. Tzu Chi has relief items including food, blankets, tents, first aid kits, body bags, on standby to respond to any future recovery operations.
Dharma Master Cheng Yen, the founder of Tzu Chi, saddened by and deeply concerned of the situation in Myanmar, has called upon Tzu Chi members around the world to be devout and live each day with piety. "Disasters of the world are the consequences of endless desire, greed, hatred in people's hearts, intertwining and accumulating over infinite time. From the global food crisis to the frequent natural disasters in recent years, we are all witnessing an earth in harm and serious distress". Master Cheng Yen calls on everyone to be compassionate, live simple lives, be grateful to one another, love the planet, and stop damaging mother earth; only then can we stop the onset of further disasters.
The Tzu Chi Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1966 by Dharma Master Cheng Yen in Hualien, on the east coast of Taiwan. The foundation has contributed to the improvement of social and community services, medical care, education and humanism in Taiwan and around the world based on Buddhist teachings.
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