Weeks after tsunamis devastated southern Asia, local Church members continued to provide service and relief for the victims by donating supplies and assembling food, hygiene and educational kits.
With the help of local members, the Church has provided a "very appropriate, immediate emergency response," said Garry Flake, director of Church emergency response, who left Salt Lake City for Asia Dec. 27 — one day after tidal waves ravaged southern Asian coasts, killing at least 160,000 people, injuring more than 500,000, and leaving millions homeless.
Brother Flake traveled through the affected countries, meeting with government leaders, making assessments of long-term needs and providing immediate emergency response when appropriate.
During his travel, Brother Flake said he met members in each of the countries who have and continue to reach out to help the victims.
In Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Thailand, for example, Latter-day Saints made hygiene and food kits, purchased clothing or other personal items or provided educational and kitchen supplies.
It is humbling to represent a Church where members respond so quickly, "reaching out in the best way they can," said Brother Flake, speaking to the Church News Jan. 12 by telephone from Hong Kong.
Members in Hong Kong — who assembled 15,000 hygiene kits Jan. 1 — met again Jan. 8, assembling an additional 5,000 hygiene kits and 5,500 baby kits. The items were shipped that afternoon to Sri Lanka.
Members in Indonesia — where 3,000 personal kits containing hygiene supplies, clothing and food were prepared in December— are also making plans to assemble an additional 17,000 kits.
Members of the Chennai 1st and 2nd branches in India purchased supplies to make 1,200 family kits (blankets, saris, towels, dishes, soap, candles and matches collected in jute bags) that were then donated to the India Red Cross. One day earlier they organized a clothing drive, collecting more than a ton of clothing. Members in the Bagalore, Hyderabad and Delhi Districts in India also have plans to assemble kits.
Craig Knight of Church Emergency Response, said the support of local members has enabled the Church to purchase relief items in the affected countries and assemble kits there — saving the cost and time of shipping and enabling kits to include supplies familiar to the recipients.
The objective, he added, is to work with the governments and identify areas where the Church can provide assistance to meet specific needs.
For example, the extremely high death toll in Indonesia created the need for body bags. At the request of the government, the Church purchased 50,500 bags to meet that need.
The Church also donated tarps and tents to help victims in Indonesia. "These will provide temporary shelter for victims or temporary field hospitals for meeting medical care needs," said Elder Thomas Palmer.
In India, Elder Dan Caldwell and Sister Ethel Caldwell distributed school kits. "These kits were so welcomed by young and old recipients, and we had the experience from start to finish in the making and presenting of this help," Sister Caldwell said.
Church leaders also traveled to Colombo and Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, and distributed some hygiene kits assembled in Hong Kong. There they witnessed the desperate need for such items as crowds gathered to accept the kits.
It was one of the many times during his trip that Brother Flake witnessed firsthand, the "real outreach of Church members worldwide."
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