South-East Asia Tsunami (December 2004)
On December 26, 2004, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 shook the western coast of Northern Sumatra. The earthquake spawned a series of tsunamis that traveled across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia to Africa’s Eastern Coast leaving over 30,974 dead, 4,698 missing and 553,287 displaced in Sri Lanka. (Source: Government of Sri Lanka, Center for National Operations, 2/1/0 5). One-third of those affected are believed to be children, many of whom have been orphaned.
The Art of Living embarked on a major initiative to help the victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami reclaim their lives. Within hours of the disaster, more than 500 volunteers swung into action distributing food, clothes, medicines, and other relief material in areas affected by the devastating tsunami, including Indonesia. Art of Living provided around 250 tons of relief supplies and 100,000 litres of drinking water to Sri Lanka. In coordination with the ASPIC Benevolent Foundation for Children, food, water, clothing and blankets were distributed to the affected children.
What the deadly tsunami washed away was not just homes and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of survivors, but also their sense of security, resulting in endless anxiety and related complications. Realizing that trauma care was the most vital requirement of survivors, The Art of Living, along with its sister organization, the International Association for Human Values (IAHV), took up the major initiative of providing trauma care using traditional holistic techniques such as meditation and breathing techniques.
It conducted workshops 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 program. The Art of Living was officially declared the head of trauma relief operations by the collectorate of Nagapattinam. In Sri Lanka, hundreds of trauma relief programs and counselling sessions were conducted, providing relief to more than 25,000 people in over 20 cities in the country.
The organization also initiated long-term rehabilitation measures for the victims. In Nagapattinam, The Art of Living built 120 houses, set up many vocational training centers 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.
"Art of Living has started a tuition center for the students in Nagapattinam. Every day we finished the classes at 6pm and had satsang. The children became very energetic and enthusiastic after satsang. IAHV-Art of Living volunteers encouraged me to continue my education. Now my main aim is to become a good teacher. Whatever I earn after I become a teacher will be for my younger brother." -M. Elangovan
Almost four years after the disaster, the rehabilitation work still continued.