Mata Amritanandamayi Math
Tsunami Relief & Rehabilitation:
Contributions, Projects & Efforts in India and Sri Lanka
The Amrita Tsunami Relief & Reha-bilitation Project is a massive 100-crore rupee [23 million U.S. dol-lar] undertaking, covering a broad range of relief efforts in India and Sri Lanka.
Of this, Rs. 3 crores (approx. 700,000 U.S. dollars) has been earmarked for Sri Lanka.
In truth, the value of the entire relief project is nearly 200 crores, as so much of the work is being done by volunteers.
In July 2005, the United Nations officially recognized the Mata Amritanandamayi Math as an NGO with Special Consulta-tive Status.
1. FREE HOUSING
• To replace homes destroyed by the tsunami, the Ashram is currently building 6,200 houses in India and Sri Lanka which will be given away free of charge. The 300 houses being
built in Sri Lanka are being constructed through Healthcare Charities Inc., a not-for-profit organisation run by Amma’s supporters in the US.
• The Ashram was the first NGO in India to complete tsunami-relief houses according to government specifications. On 13 April, 2005 the Ashram handed over its first batch of 18 houses in Kerala (Edavanakkad, Ernakulam District).
• As of 11 December 2005, the Ashram had completed 2000 houses in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
• All over Kerala, construction is taking place in various villages: in Kollam (Cheriya Azhikkal, Azhikkal, Srayikkad, Parayakkadavu, Pandaraturathu, Vellana Turuthu, Kuzhithura,
Clappana and Kozhikode), in Ernakulam (Edavanakkad) and in Alappuzha (Valiya Azhikkal).
• In Pondicherry, houses are being built in Karakkal district.
• In Tamil Nadu districts of Chennai, Cuddalore, Kanyakumari, and Nagapattinam (samantapettai,
Akarapettai, and Patinacherry), new homes are being built.
• Homes are being constructed by the Ashram in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
• In Sri Lanka, three-story homes are being constructed according to government specifications
in the Sinhalese and Tamil districts of Kalutara and Hambantotta.
• In many places, the Ashram is building not just houses, but also roads, wells, schools, community halls and healthcare centres.
2. FREE EDUCATION & EMPLOYMENT
• In order to uplift those affected by the tsunami, the Ashram is providing free vocational training for 2,500 young people from Kerala and Tamil Nadu; this training will help them find new employment. According to their educational qualifications, they are being trained to be teachers, nurses, paramedical assistants, electricians, security officers, drivers, masonry workers,
carpenters, and mechanics. During the training period, the students receive a monthly stipend of Rs. 500, as well as free food, uniforms, and accommodations. Upon successful completion of the training, they are guaranteed a job.
• The Ashram has provided free tailoring courses and sewing machines to 300 tsunami-affected village women in Alappad Panchayat (Kollam District, Kerala). Graduates are now making approximately Rs. 2,000 per month stitching clothing. Similar classes are also taking place in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu.
• Through a program called Matru Gramam (Mother’s Village), the Ashram is helping villagers living in Alappad Panchayat to form independent cooperatives and self-help groups in areas such as tailoring, sandal-making, soap-manufacturing, and other trades. The concept is designed to help small villages become self-dependent and to help them find new means of generating income.
• The Ashram distributed to students various educational aids, such as 10,000 textbooks, 5,000 pens, compasses, rulers, dictionaries, and notebooks.
• In Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu, the Ashram is providing free hostel accommodations
for 24 college students, free computer training for 200 youth, and free general (1st-12th standard) tuition to 750 others. Spoken English classes are also being taught free of charge.
• 35 children whose families were affected by the Tsunami are receiving free education and hostel accommodations at the Ashram’s school in Parippally (Kollam District, Kerala).
3. ASSISTANCE FOR FISHERMEN
• In Tamil Nadu, the Ashram has given away and repaired a total of 550 fishing boats, complete with engine, handle and propeller. It has also given away an additional 550 new boat engines and fishing nets.
• In Kerala, the Ashram is building 150 boats, engines and nets which are being donated to villagers who lost theirs in the tsunami.
• In June 2005, the Amrita-ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) Village Satellite Resource Centre began providing GPS (Global Positioning System) information regarding the best fishing locations to fishermen in Nagapattinam. Three locations are reported and updated every three days.
4. SAFEGUARDING AGAINST FUTURE TSUNAMIS
• Through its Harita Theeram [Green Shore] project, the Ashram is planting 100,000 casuarina
saplings on the beaches of Alappad Panchayat near the Ashram in order to serve as a barrier against surging water from storms and tsunamis. (By September 2005, 50,000 saplings had been planted.) The trees will also protect the beaches from soil erosion. Approximately 650 villagers are participating in this project. The saplings were provided by Kerala’s Department
of Forestry, while the Ashram is providing water tanks and pipes for watering the saplings
throughout the panchayat.
• The Ashram constructed a footbridge over the Kayamkulam Backwaters, connecting
the Alappad Panchayat (where the Ashram is located) to the mainland. This will provide a much-needed evacuation route for the villagers on the peninsula in the event of another tsunami. The bridge will be 100 meters long, five meters wide, and seven meters high, and is designed to carry as many as 15,000 people across in 30 minutes.
5. FREE MEDICAL CARE
• Within hours after the tsunami struck, Amma marshaled medical resources from the Ashram’s AIMS Hospital in Kochi to the worst-hit areas in Kollam District. Six ventilator-equipped ambulances
and medical teams headed by 10 doctors, including anesthesiologists and cardiologists, nurses and paramedics, made rounds of the tsunami-affected areas and relief camps for four months, initially visiting each camp every two hours.
• A medical unit comprised of an ambulance and doctors was immediately dispatched to Vypin, Ernakulam District, Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, four ambulances, seven doctors, five paramedics, a full ICU team and dozens of volunteers swung into action soon after after the disaster struck.
• The Ashram’s Ayurveda College provided medical treatment to 200 inpatients immediately after the tsunami.
• Medicines worth almost $14,000 U.S. dollars were distributed within the first few days. In the weeks after, Amma’s charitable hospital in Amritapuri distributed medicines worth more than a million
rupees (almost 25,000 U.S. dollars) to the tsunami-affected.
• AIMS Hospital has treated 900 tsunami victims since the disaster hit, of whom 510 were inpatients.
Of those, 450 underwent major surgery, including 15 cardiac operations.
• Seven women who had lost all their children in the tsunami underwent re-canalization surgery at AIMS Hospital. Five conceived, two gave birth again. Everything was provided free of charge: medicine, pre-examinations, surgery, follow-up examinations, etc.
• The Ashram provided appropriate care for 16 women throughout their pregnancies and deliveries.
The Ashram also provided them with postnatal care.
• Transportation to AIMS for all the abovementioned patients was provided free of charge.
• The Ashram set up 20 eye camps, performed 115 cataract operations, and distributed 400 spectacles
to those who lost their eyeglasses during the tsunami.
• A telemedicine center was set up at the Ashram’s temporary shelters in Alappad Panchayat, connecting the doctors stationed there with AIMS Hospital in Cochin via satellite..
6. FREE PSYCHOLOGICAL COUNSELLING
• In the days and weeks after the tsunami struck, a team of child psychiatrists and psychologists
made regular visits to the relief camps, actively interacting with the children and providing assistance and counseling.
• Trained experts have been using music therapy to help the children and adults recover from their trauma.
• At the shelters and other local gathering areas, the children received classes in harmonium,
tabla, singing, dancing, sports, yoga, spoken-English, Sanskrit and swimming. They were also encouraged to channel their talents through storytelling, poetry-writing, and drawing.
These activities kept their minds active and helped to distract them from their traumatic experience.
• In Alappad Panchayat, doctors from AIMS regularly visited relief camps and homes of victims, and provided counselling for thousands. After months of daily visits and continuous
counselling, the doctors diagnosed 160 as suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); these individuals will continue to receive treatment until they recover.
• In total, as part of the post-tsunami relief work, the Ashram has served more than 7.5 million
meals throughout Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
• 15 minutes after the tsunami struck, the Ashram began preparing food for the evacuees, and immediately sent 40 trucks of raw rice and food supplies to affected regions all over Kerala.
• In Kerala, the Ashram distributed 30,000 kg of rice during the first 15 days. Another 20,000 kg of rice were distributed to the evacuees on the day they left the relief camp.
• In Alappad alone, the Ashram provided three meals daily for 135 days. These meals were served at 22 counters along a 17.5-km stretch of the coast.
• In Kollam District, the Ashram served three meals a day to more than 3,600 families (18,000 people) being sheltered at the Amrita University campus. In addition, three meals a day were provided
to 12,000 – 15,000 refugees in 12 government relief camps in the district.
• In Kollam District, during the first 15 days, 15 tons of uppumav [hot wheat cereal] was prepared and 22,500 liters of milk were distributed to children in government camps.
• The Ashram provided lunch at the schools in Kerala for children who were from the relief camps.
• At the Nagapattinam relief camps, 675,000 meals were prepared and served within a radius of 15 km, beginning on 27 Dec. 2004.
• In Tamil Nadu, the Ashram distributed 185 tons of uncooked rice, 1.1 tons of cooking oil, 1.5 tons of flour, 1.5 tons of sugar, 1.5 tons of rava, 2.1 tons of powdered milk and 4.5 tons of dhal.
• In Chennai, a total of 56,000 meals were provided from 27 December 2004 through 10 January 2005.
• During Amma’s visit to Nagapattinam, Amma distributed 6,000 bags of rice.
• Uncooked foods such as rice and beans were distributed in Sri Lanka.
8. TEMPORARY SHELTERS & RELIEF CAMPS
• On the day the tsunami struck, the Ashram created three relief camps at the Amritapuri campus of the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham on the mainland across from the Ashram. About 4,000 people stayed there for the first 15 days after the tsunami. About 2,000 of these remained there for four months.
• The Ashram built temporary shelters for 250 families in Kerala and 300 families in Tamil Nadu. The shelters were completed by 13 January 2005 and were equipped with electric lights, fans, running water and TVs.
• Relief camps were set up by the Ashram on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
• The Ashram loaned five acres of land to the Kerala government to build temporary shelters
in Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala.
• The Ashram’s camp at Amrita University took in an additional 1500 families when they requested to be relocated there because the families felt that women were not safe at the nearby makeshift government camps where they had been staying.
• At the relief camps, the Ashram organized sporting events, as well as music and dance programs to entertain the residents.
9. ORPHANAGES & ADOPTIONS
• An orphanage is being started in Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu, in order to care for approximately 350 children who lost their parents in the tsunami.
• In Chennai District, 50 children orphaned by the tsunami are receiving help from the Ashram.
• In Sri Lanka, the Ashram has formally expressed to the government a willingness to provide assistance to orphans.
10. FREE CLOTHING & OTHER ESSENTIAL ITEMS
• In the days and weeks after the tsunami struck, the Ashram distributed:
- thousands of relief kits to people in Kollam Dt. The kits were distributed the day ater the tsunami struck, and included clothing, sandals, sleeping mats, bed sheets, and oter essential items.
- 40,000 new saris, dhotis, shirts, underskirts, undergarments, and children’s clothes in Tamil Nadu
- 35,000 new pieces of clothing in Kerala.
- 15,000 new saris and dhotis in Sri Lanka.
- 30,000 blankets in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- 10,000 new sets of tailored-to-fit clothing to children from the Alappuzha and Kolam Districts in Kerala.
11. CHILDREN’S CAMPS
• Two camps, which included classes in Yoga, spoken-English, Sanskrit and personality-development, were conducted at the Amritapuri Ashram for 10,000 children from Alappuzha and Kollam Districts, Kerala. The camps were designed to keep their minds active and help them overcome their traumatic experience.
• Swimming classes were conducted to help the children overcome their newly developed fear of water.
• The five-day camps included question-and-answer sessions with Amma.
12. FINANCIAL SUPPORT
• In Kerala, the Ashram distributed 10.5 million rupees (almost 20,000 U.S. dollars) among 16,000 families residing in the districts of Kollam, Ernakulam and Alappuzha to purchase
• Individuals already participating in the Ashram’s existing pension scheme received an additional Rs. 1,700.
• In Cochin District, families received 750 rupees.
• The Ashram is providing pensions to tsunami-affected families in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
• In Sri Lanka, Amma has expressed to the government an interest in providing financial aid in the form of pensions to the tsunami victims of the country. This would be provided through Healthcare Charities, a not-for-profit organization run by Amma’s American supporters.
13. MARRIAGE ASSISTANCE
• The Ashram has conducted hundreds of marriages on an individual and group basis for tsunami-affected couples in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.
• All the costs of the marriage ceremonies were covered by the Ashram, including the wedding ornaments, clothes, and the traditional feast for the couples’ relatives.
• In Tamil Nadu, the newlyweds were provided with furniture, cooking vessels and other items needed to start their new lives.
14. PRAYERS AND CONSOLATIONS
• Amma visited relief camps in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, and Sri Lanka to console
those who were affected by the tsunami.
• Amma held prayers for the peace of the living and the souls of the deceased while visiting
• In Alappad Panchayat, Amma participated in the moksha deepam ceremony traditionally
held on the 16th day after a death. Ashram swamis and brahmacharis held similar programs in various locations throughout Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.
• In the first two weeks after the tsunami struck, 26 vehicles and two earthmovers were mobilized to clear debris, transport food to the relief camps, and for use in other relief work.
• Tens of thousands of volunteers—including Ashram residents and supporters from all over India and abroad --- have been selflessly participating in and contributing to various relief works since the disaster struck.
• Students and staff from Amrita institutions, as well as a group of 100 university students from Japan, joined in the efforts.
• In the days after the tsunami, volunteers participated in the efforts by excavating the bodies of victims, making arrangements for a mass funeral in Alappad Panchayat, cleaning the Ashram and government-run relief camps, and constructing shelters.
• Volunteers served food and distributed clothing for months after the tsunami hit.
• Volunteers continue to help with the relief efforts by participating in the construction of new homes.
|| OM LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO