South-East Asia Tsunami (December 2004)
On 26th December 2004, an earthquake of a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale shook the western coast of Northern Sumatra. The earthquake spawned a series of tsunamis that travelled across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia to Africa’s Eastern Coast killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (100 feet) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest hit, followed by Sri Lanka, India and Thailand (Paulson, Tom, 2005).
The Art of Living Foundation embarked on a major initiative to help the victims of the Tsunami reclaim their lives. Within hours of the disaster, more than 500 volunteers swung into action distributing food, clothes, medicines and other relief material. The Art of Living Foundation provided around 250 tons of relief supplies and 100,000 litres of drinking water to those affected in Sri Lanka. In co-ordination with the ASPIC Benevolent Foundation for Children - food, water, clothing and blankets were distributed to affected children.
The deadly tsunami not only washed away the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of survivors, but also their sense of security, resulting in endless anxiety and related complications. The Art of Living Foundation/IAHV took up the major initiative of providing trauma care using tried and tested trauma workshops.
Workshops were conducted that helped people overcome their shock and trauma, offered emotional solace and provided immediate relief from deep anguish and depression. Many reported that they could sleep properly and experienced an inner calm.
In Nagapattinam in southern India, over 50,000 people have benefited from the programme. The Art of Living Foundation was officially declared the head of trauma relief operations by the Collectorate of Nagapattinam. In Sri Lanka, hundreds of trauma relief programmes and counselling sessions were conducted, providing relief to more than 25,000 people in over 20 cities in the country.
The organisation also initiated long-term rehabilitation measures for the victims. In Nagapattinam, the Art of Living Foundation built 120 houses, set up many vocational training centres and also a primary school to provide free quality education to the tsunami-affected children. Already one orphanage-cum-school is operational in Sri Lanka.