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Dispatches from Sri Lanka - by Jeff Greenwald
Jeff is in Sri Lanka assisting with relief efforts.
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Paradise Interrupted - by Joshua Samuel Brown
December 31th, 2004 - Winter has come to Hong Kong, and I'm looking out over the Pearl River Delta and trying to imagine what it must have been like last Sunday morning, just a bit further south and over the Isthmus that connects Malaysia and Thailand. By all accounts from those who were on beaches from Indonesia to India that morning, the weather was fine. Perfect beach weather.
What came next has already been written about in so many ways, from straight-up AP news writing style to overly-metaphoric prose. I wasn't there, so to try to add to this body of disaster writing would be out of place. But as a Things Asian writer, I don't feel like I can carry on with this week's assignments (a humorous Bill Bryson-esque story about a recent adventure far from the Tsunami zone) as if this catastrophe wasn't unfolding as I write. As I hit alt+tab to switch between an open word document and CNN.COM every hour, the death toll just keeps on rising. I find it hard to take seriously writing a lighthearted article about a snorkeling trip to a hot spring paradise.
Paradise. I've read this word a lot over the past few days, usually followed by words like wiped out, destroyed or the less dramatic (but more literary) lost. Paradise. Strife, famine & disaster aside, most of the places crushed by sea Sunday morning fit well the bill, certainly from a travel writer's perspective. But to play devil's advocate, if you've seen one stretch of confectionary sugar sands, sky blue water, and perfectly curved shoreline, haven't you seen them all? So really, what makes paradise? In my opinion, its the people who call the place home.
Indonesia. Malaysia. Thailand. Sri Lanka. India. If you're a regular Things Asian reader, chances are good that you've spent some time in one or more of these countries. Think back, and remember the people who made the place paradise for you. The guy who walked in from the ocean with a basket of crabs, offering to serve them to you freshly grilled, with beer, for $3. The family who rented you a hut on the beach and made you sing karaoke with them. The barefoot kid who showed you an amazing diving cliff after you bought some trinket off him.
I could go on, but you get the point.
Right now, those living in those areas most severely affected by the earthquake and tsunami are in a desperate state; so grim are things in some areas the identification of bodies (let alone a ceremonial disposal) is a luxury that the living cannot afford to spend time on. Every upward tick of the body count at cnn.com represents tens of thousands of bodies that need to be burned or buried en-masse to avoid putting the survivors at greater risk of disease and further misery. Food and fresh water are scarce in some areas and completely absent in others. Almost everywhere the logistics of distributing aid to the millions affected stretch the limits of every major relief organization.
So what can those of us who are safe and warm do to help?
First off, we've got to pony up the cash. Organizations involved with the rescue, relief & rebuilding efforts include Unicef, Oxfam, Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Habitat for Humanity... the list goes on, and can be found below. Nearly all of these organizations have set up mechanisms for online donation, so give as if lives depended on it. They do.
Second, if you have more time than money to spare, contact any of these organizations through their websites and ask what you can do to help. If you have the needed skills chances are good that one of these groups will put you to work, though you'll likely have to pay your own way. Check with the individual organizations to learn more (websites below).
Finally, in the long term, travelers have got to return. The media is fickle; in a few weeks the most egregious damage will have been cleared, the western tourists who saw it all will have been quoted at length, and the celebrities who held on for dear life along with everyone else will be busily optioning their story rights in Hollywood. But out of sight is not out of mind, and in communities from Indonesia to India, with the dead buried and burned, the job of rebuilding shattered lives will have only just begun. For many in the region, tourism is a major (if not the major) source of income, and if people there are to have any hope of regaining what's been lost materially, travelers have got to return as soon as possible.
Palm trees grow back, waters recede, and in time the seas will come to again represent sustenance and diversion and not destruction and death. But fellow travelers, unless we do everything we can to help aid the people whose lives have been shattered by this disaster, then paradise is gone forever.
Donations can be made to the following organizations online.
Action Against Hunger
American Red Cross
American Jewish World Service
BAPS Care International
Direct Relief International
Habitat for Humanity International
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Islamic Relief Worldwide
Network for Good
Oxfam International (US page)
Save the Children
UNICEF (US page)
World Food Programme (UN)
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From Gregg (madnomad.com): My heart goes out to all effected by this and I humbly encourage you to give what you can to the relief efforts.
More from Gregg at the Ethical Traveler web site
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Information on tsunamis, news, where to donate, how to help, compiled by Christina Gosnell.
CARE. CARE, already at work in most of the countries hit by the tsunamis, is mounting an emergency response. On the site, find out how you can donate time, money, and supplies. Also find out which areas were hit the hardest; site updated often.
Mission India. Tsunami Survival kits available for purchase. Mission India partners with national Indian missions, mainline denominations, churches and Christian outreach organizations to aid in disaster relief.
Global Trade Union. Find out how trade unions across the world are coming to aid victims in Asia.
Tsunami Page of Dr. George P.C.. World-renowned expert on Tsunamis discusses the recent events.
MSNBC. Read up-to-date news stories on tsunami damage and numbers.
Tsunami and Asteroid/Comet Impacts. From the Australian Spaceguard Survey. Find out how tsunamis and astronomy are related.
Medair-International Humanitarian Aid Organization. Help Sri Lanka now.
New York Times. Read up-to-date news headlines on relief measures in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and other regions.
Asian Quake Disaster. Several countries around the Indian Ocean have been hit by devastating tsunamis. The earthquake was one of the most powerful since the start of the 20th century The 8.9 magnitude quake struck under the sea near Aceh in north Indonesia, that makes it the fifth largest earthquake since 1900. The quake triggered a tsunamis that killed thousands in the coastal areas across southeastern Asia and Africa. This site offers several message boards to communicate about the disaster and relief efforts.
Red Cross. Help the Red Cross's efforts. Donate by phone, mail, online, or with stock.
Tsunami Relief Web Site. Developed by the World Vision Organization in an effort to help victims of the tsunami disaster. On the site, you can sponsor a child, view photos, donate, read news headlines, and more.
International Tsunami Information Center. This organization monitors and establishes new technologies in order to mitigate the hazards associated with tsunamis. The site offers a great FAQ section, photo gallery, and educational materials.
Tsunami Modeling and Forecasting. Great list of documents and satellite images of tsunami theories and forecasting.
Tornadoes of the 20th Century. Great glossary of tsunami terms.
Tsunami Information Center. Site developed by Washington State University. Topics include The Mechanisms of Tsunami Generation and A Survey of Great Tsunamis.
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From the Center for Southeast Asia Studies (CSEAS) at University of California, Berkeley.
CSEAS recommends the following NGOs which have ongoing programs in Indonesia:
Global Greengrants Fund (US-based organization, U.S. donors can make contributions as tax-deductible.)
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A message from the Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), University of California at Berkeley.
Dear CJS Community:
CJS is forwarding a message from Daniel Ziv, who sent the following message via Kumi Hadler of the Institute of East Asian Studies. Daniel is in Aceh, Indonesia, helping the earthquake and tsunami victims. As you already know the area is devastated and needs immediate help. There are many rescue organizations working to get international assistance, and we hope this direct connection to the big NGOs that already have channels to distribute aid to Indonesia will somehow make the coordination more effective and speedy. Daniel recommends several NGOs and institutions in his message. Your contribution will be much appreciated.
From: Daniel Ziv
I know all of you are deeply shocked by the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia and in Aceh in particular. Many of you have contacted me asking how best to contribute, assist in some way, even volunteer here in Indonesia. I am currently attached to the UN Coordinating Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) here in Banda Aceh, and so have a pretty good sense of the current situation on the ground.
What is needed most, both now and in the medium to long term for Aceh's recovery, is financial support through existing, reputable NGOs or UN agencies on the ground. These groups are experienced at assessing needs and delivering aid, have the requisite networks and logistical mechanisms in place, and at this stage already have a reasonably smooth delivery pipeline running from Jakarta to Medan to Banda Aceh to Meulaboh and even further afield - something that would take a new, ad hoc or overseas charity group or private donor weeks or even months to iron out from scratch.
Collecting clothing or food or medicines and mailing it to Aceh simply isn't effective. Neither is trying to charter planes or shipments. Nor does it make sense to send "delegations" to deliver goods "straight to the people" This mostly just overburdens the local distribution infrastructure and creates more bottlenecks in an already complicated delivery network, often for contributions that may not even be relevant to the latest needs on the ground.
My suggestion therefore is to channel any donations through the big NGOs. These groups are diverse and each tends to specialize in certain types of assistance: Some focus on food aid, others on assistance to children, shelter for displaced persons, health, water and sanitation, trauma treatment, etc. Check out organizations such as Care, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, ICRC (the Red Cross), Oxfam, World Vision, Medicine Sans Frontier (MSF), International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNICEF, and so on. Many of them now have links on the major news websites. Similarly, those of you in Indonesia may want to channel contributions (or in exceptional cases material donations) through large, reputable local NGOs such as PMI (Indonesian Red Cross), Kontras/Imparisal, Padam, Forum LSM Aceh, Yayasan Puli, Nurani Dunia, etc.
If you are eager to volunteer in Aceh or Medan and either speak fluent Indonesian or have an emergency response, food aid or health background, feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, preferably with a CV and stating your period of availability, or by text message to +62-811-140997.
Kindly forward this on to anyone you think may be interested.
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Have information you want to share? Please email us and we'll add it to this list.
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Published on 12/29/04