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Tsunami Relief

News Update: February 2009

Long Term Tsunami Relief Projects
February 2009

• 6,200 homes in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andaman & Nicobar Islands were completed as of October 2008.
• In Sri Lanka, 96 homes were completed.
• Provision of pensions for widows in two villages in Tamil Nadu and in the area around the Amritapuri Ashram.
• In Tamil Nadu, MAM donated 600 fishing boats, engines and fishing nets. In Kerala, MAM donated 100 boats, engines and nets. The approximate cost for this was $1 million US (Rs. 4.3 crores). On average each boat supports seven families.
• The provision of free education and vocational training to more than 2,500 young people including:

  • 800 nursing assistants trained at AIMS
  • 1,000 automobile drivers and security guards trained at MAM’s vocational training centre
  • Seven women trained as teachers at the Amrita School of Education in Mysore
  • Hundreds of women trained in tailoring, candle-making and
  • toy-making

Medical Help for Bereaved Mothers
Some of the mothers who lost their children in the tsunami had previously undergone tubal-ligation as a form of permanent contraception. With the shock of their irrevocable loss, some became depressed, even suicidal. Amma offered such women the opportunity to undergo fallopian-tube recanalisation to reverse their sterilization surgeries. Six women underwent the procedure at AIMS Hospital. MAM covered all the expenses. As of October 2008, all six mothers had given birth, three of whom had twins.


Amma’s Ashram Became the
Centre of Relief Operations

When the tsunami struck Amritapuri and the neighbouring coastal villages on 26 December 2004, Amma’s Ashram became the centre of relief operations. More than 140 people were killed in the immediate area and countless houses were destroyed. It was Amma herself who waded through the water, directing the evacuation of the 20,000 people visiting the Ashram at the time. She sent her disciples out into the flooded village to rescue people and search for the injured and dying.

Amma deployed ambulances, doctors and medical supplies from her AIMS Hospital to the devastated areas on both India’s east and west coasts and immediately began supplying food, clothing and shelter to tens of thousands. The morning after, she visited relief camps set up at Amrita University, consoling the families and sharing their immense grief. A few days later, the Ashram assisted the grief-stricken community with the mass cremation of its loved ones and brought together thousands to pray for the deceased and the bereaved.

Within hours of the disaster in the vicinity of Amritapuri, Amma transformed the Amrita University’s local colleges into relief camps. She arranged the collection and distribution of all necessary supplies, considering every last detail. So intense was her concern for the needs of the villagers that for 24 hours she took neither food nor rest, not even a drop of water.

The Ashram fed not only 2,000 village evacuees and 3,000 ashram residents in its own camps, but also 15,000 people in the 12 government shelters nearby. The Ashram provided everything it could from its storerooms. Evacuees were given blankets, sleeping mats, soap, clothes and medical care.

Within a few weeks, the Ashram distributed cash payments to thousands of families for replacing household cooking vessels. Volunteers spent time with the villagers, consoling them, listening to them and offering their support. They also helped the families to clear away the sludge and rubble from the houses left standing. For months afterwards, the Ashram kitchen served 10,000 meals three times a day to the relief camps and to 18 food counters in the devastated villages near Amritapuri. This massive operation was supported by volunteers and a fleet of lorries that went out three times a day providing both food and hope.

Within a week of the tragedy, construction of temporary shelters for the homeless began on M.A. Math’s land. Nine shelters, complete with electricity, ceiling fans and separate bathrooms, were built within a few weeks. In Alappad, Kerala and Samanthampettai, Tamil Nadu, the M.A. Math provided shelter for 550 families. The M.A. Math connected its temporary shelters with the AIMS Hospital and the Amritapuri Ashram hospital via a telemedicine satellite link.

Amma's Pledge

Amma’s organisation pledged Rs. 100 crores, $23 million U.S., in tsunami relief aid. It proposed to rebuild all the homes that were completely destroyed by the tsunami in Kerala, as well as take up reconstruction in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The M.A. Math distributed 15 million rupees, $350,467 U.S., to families in the Kerala districts of Kollam, Ernakulam and Alappuzha for buying cooking vessels, and provided them with counselling, education and homes for orphaned children. After meeting with the President of Sri Lanka, Amma, on behalf of Healthcare Charities, Inc., U.S.A. (an initiative of Amma’s devotees), offered 30 million Indian rupees, $685,000 U.S., for relief work, including the construction of hundreds of homes and, if the government permits, a free pension plan and the adoption of orphaned children, where relatives request it. By the end of 2006, after two years of relief effort, the amount of aid pledged by the M.A. Math had doubled, reaching 200 crores, $46 million U.S.

"Those who are engaged in selfless service... may receive hundreds of thousands of dollars but will deliver the equivalent of millions to people in need. “This is because their motives are selfless; they simply desire to benefit society. Rather than take any remuneration for themselves they give all they can to those who are suffering."—Amma

Within the first three months after the tsunami struck, over 20,000 volunteers, including Ashram residents from India and abroad, students and members of the M.A. Math’s youth wing have helped with the relief work.

The tsunami hits the coast of Kerala, India

Amma consoles

Many home are destroyed