Salvation Army Provides Relief and Hope to Survivors in Asia
- Sue Schumann Warner Contributing Writer
- 2005 5 Jan
“The terrible tsunami disaster in South Asia is a tragedy for the whole human family,” said General John Gowans, international leader of The Salvation Army. “And just as members of a family rally round when tragedy strikes, so the world family is coming to the aid of those who have suffered. Salvationists, particularly, identify themselves with all who suffer loss, so in these tragic circumstances we commit ourselves to do all we can to help alleviate suffering and give practical help.”
In response to the devastating effects of the South Asia tsunami, The Salvation Army has launched its largest relief effort in its 135-year history as an international movement.
The Army has had significant work in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India for more than 100 years, and is a major contributor to spiritual development and social services, with tens of thousands of Salvationists, corps (churches), schools, medical clinics, and children’s homes—enabling workers to provide immediate relief to victims, rescuing those trapped in the wreckage of their homes or other buildings; providing food, water, medical supplies, clothing and temporary shelter, and counseling.
This aid has stretched around the world, with Salvation Army airport chaplains meeting many flights returning home from the region, providing counseling and—in cases where people escaped with the clothes on their back—warm winter clothing.
An International Emergency Response Team was dispatched from the Army’s International Headquarters in London to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India to help coordinate the massive relief and reconstruction efforts. While continuing to provide spiritual comfort, pastoral support, and physical relief to victims, the Army is moving into phase two with the goal of helping people the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their homes and livelihoods to begin to rebuild their lives.
As of today, The Salvation Army USA has raised $1.5 million from on-line donations and another $200,000 from calls to 1-800-SALARMY.
Active in Sri Lanka since 1883, The Salvation Army was on the scene soon after the devastating tsunami slammed onto the shore in Galle, on the south coast of Sri Lanka, providing immediate relief to victims.
In an e-mail sent the day of the tragedy Lou Brandon, a Salvation Army staff member at the Army’s headquarters in the capital city of Colombo, wrote, “The city of Galle is a ghost town. Sunday morning trains were full of travelers, the bus stand was full of people waiting for their transport and the open-air market was crowded as usual. All are gone. The trains floated out to sea, the busses full of people floated out to sea.
“Most of the deaths here appear to be children. Sunday morning the sea was doing amazing things. Children were in awe. They called their mothers and fathers to watch. Then the waves came and everyone was gone.”
Here, with Army facilities badly damaged and debris littering the town, The Salvation Army continues to provide aid and counseling to survivors, as well as actively assist in recovering bodies.
In Indonesia, where The Salvation Army’s work since 1894 has included churches, schools, and medical clinics—and Salvationists number more than 28,000—the Army’s territorial commander, Commissioner Johannes Watilete reports the immediate and urgent need at the disaster sites—Aceh and Nias Island—is for body bags, medical masks, hand gloves, hand sanitizers and disinfectants. The Salvation Army is coordinating distribution of those items with the government.
According to Watilete, the Army’s 14 relief teams, known locally as “Compassion in Action” teams, are actively involved in North Sumatra and neighboring areas counseling relatives of the victims. “People are still in a state of shock, disoriented, and bewildered,” he said.
In India, Salvation Army officers, church members, and volunteers are providing practical aid and spiritual comfort to thousands of victims. Mass feeding centers have been set up at Army corps (centers for worship and service), which have become round-the-clock aid centers where survivors can get shelter, food and clothing.
Reports from the Army’s India Central headquarters indicate relief work continues in Chennai, Machilipatnam, Nellore, Divi and Nagapattinam, with 405 fishermen’s families in Machilipatnam and 500 families in Nellore receiving rice and cooking materials. In the coastal town of Chennai, 1,000 survivors are receiving food each day.
The Salvation Army’s main relief efforts in the region are centered in the coastal area of Nagapattinam, home to 73 villages. Here, the Army has distributed large quantities of clothing, bedding, food and sanitary supplies, and is providing support and counseling. In addition, a community kitchen has been established, equipped to prepare meals twice daily for 1,200 people.
In southeast India, which is the region of India most affected by the tsunami, Army teams have been serving 56 camps housing homeless people from 33 villages in the Tamil Nadu area. Salvation Army doctors are providing medical care, and plans are underway for reconstructing homes, repairing fishing boats and replacing fishing nets. The Salvation Army has over 400 corps (churches) in this area, as well as 23 schools and several hospitals and medical facilities.
At locations in Southwest India, 15,000 survivors –now homeless--are being sheltered in three camps. Their most urgent need is for sleeping mats, bedding, clothing and household items.
Meanwhile, additional means of support are underway. In Chicago, Major Patrick McPherson, the national director of The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) is monitoring ham radio transmissions to collect and relay information from the disaster-stricken areas. SATERN is also providing health and welfare information concerning those affected to friends and loved ones. To fill out a health and welfare application visit www.satern.org
As the staggering impact of the disaster continues to be revealed, The Salvation Army is appealing for funds to meet the needs of victims. Donations, designated “South Asia Disaster Fund” may be made at The Salvation Army’s secure donations web site by using a credit card. One hundred percent of all donations will be sent directly to assist the affected areas. The web address is: www.1800salarmy.org
Donations may also be made by calling: 1-800-SALARMY.
PHOTOS courtesy of Salvation Army. All rights reserved.