“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.